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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

22 OCT 2010

CHILD SUPPORT: JM v The United Kingdom (App No 37060/06)

(European Court of Human Rights; 28 September 2010)

The children were resident with the father, although the children spent two-and-half days a week with the mother. The mother was in a stable lesbian relationship, in a house purchased with her partner as joint tenants. The mother was required to contribute to the cost of the children's upbringing. The assessment of the mother's housing costs did not take into account her relationship, although would have done if she had been cohabiting with a man. The mother challenged the assessment, in part on the basis that it did not make full allowance for her housing costs. The appeals tribunal allowed the mother's appeal on the basis that it was appropriate to compare the mother's situation to that of an individual in a heterosexual relationship. The Child Support Commissioner upheld the tribunal decision, seeing no reason in context of child support legislation to distinguish between families according to the sexual orientation of the parents. The Court of Appeal upheld subsequently that decision. However, the House of Lords allowed the Secretary of State's further appeal.

Held, there had been a violation of Art 14 ECHR in conjunction with Art 1 of Protocol No 1. It was not readily apparent why mother's housing costs should have been taken into account differently than would have been the case had she formed a relationship with a man.

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