A woman, who wanted to claim maintenance after the death of her life partner, was refused remedy by the Constitutional Court, which, in a majority decision, ruled that Ethel Robinson, who was not married to her partner Aaron Shandling when he died in 2001, did not have the legal right to financial support from Shandling's estate. A report on the IoL site says the court recognised that many women become economically dependent on men, and could be left destitute on the death of their male partners, but said these wrongs would not be put right by including unmarried partners in the Maintenance of Surviving Spouses Act. The MSS Act gives rights to survivors of a marriage, but defines a survivor as ‘the surviving spouse in a marriage dissolved by death’. Robinson, represented by the Women's Legal Centre (WLC), contended that the Act was in conflict with the Constitution, because it unfairly discriminated against domestic partners. Robinson and Shandling had been involved in a monogamous life partnership for 15 years. Justice Skweyiya, who wrote the judgment, said changing the wording of the Act would be a ‘palliative measure’. He said the vulnerability of women in domestic relationships was a widespread problem that should be addressed through the empowerment of women. The judgment also noted the need to improve the law to put more general rights and obligations on people who live in domestic relationships.
Supplied courtesy of Legalbrief Today.