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wife living in separate home in different country from husband in

JAS1
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Hello,

Haven’t come across this situation before, someone a colleague spoke to -

Wife lives in Manchester for 4 years to care for Autistic son, lives in her son’s flat.

She has her own home with a mortgage in Scotland which her husband lives in. They are still together just living separately so she can care for her son.

Can she claim UC in her own right? If she lived in her own place and not at her son’s could she claim housing costs and council tax support?

Thanks

Elliot Kent
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Benefit law (with the notable exception of tax credits) only treats two people as a couple if they are “living together” regardless of any other matters. Two people who have lived apart for four years, irrespective of being married, can’t really be regarded as “living together”.

There may however be an issue in respect of the property as an asset. There is no obviously applicable disregard for any capital value of the house - so it may be that if your client has an interest in the property worth £16k or more, that ends up putting the breaks on a UC claim.

Paul_Treloar_AgeUK
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Surely these are worth looking at Elliot?

SCHEDULE 10
Capital to be disregarded
Premises
2.  Premises occupied by a close relative of a person as their home where that close relative has limited capability for work or has reached the qualifying age for state pension credit.
3.  Premises occupied by a person’s former partner as their home where the person and their former partner are not estranged, but living apart by force of circumstances, for example where the person is in residential care.

 

Elliot Kent
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Good point Paul.

Para 2 cannot apply because the regs do not define “close relative” in terms inclusive of a claimant’s spouse.

But Para 3 may well apply.

I was a bit thrown because it talks about a “former partner” which suggests that the relationship has ended, but then seems to contradict that by referring to not being estranged.

I think the answer is that the provision has been largely copied over from legacy benefit regulations where “former partner” would have more obviously covered this situation in benefit terms.

I suppose the prior question is whether there is any equity to disregard.

[ Edited: 4 Dec 2019 at 09:56 am by Elliot Kent ]
Charles
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Elliot Kent - 04 December 2019 09:47 AM

I was a bit thrown because it talks about a “former partner” which suggests that the relationship has ended, but then seems to contradict that by referring to not being estranged.

The regs define partner as being “the other member of a couple”, and they are not any more treated as a couple due to the absence (reg 3(6)).

Pete at CAB
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Does the wife’s share of the house in scotland have any actual value, we know there is a mortgage and it may be that, as an asset, her share could possibly be worth very very little after sale costs etc and this is always supposing that she could actually sell her share.

Paul_Treloar_AgeUK
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Might be easier to simply make the para.3 argument above as an opener? They’re treated as permanently separated as apart for more than 26 weeks, so they’re not a couple as they don’t share a common household but they aren’t estranged.

Paul_Treloar_AgeUK
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D’oh!!!

HB Anorak
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Why the “D’oh!”, I think you are exactly right.  This is just the kind of situation that para 3 is intended for.  The textbook case would be where one member of the couple is in a care home, which is now written into the UC regulations as an example, but it applies in any case where two people still regard themselves as an item but no longer satisfy the definition of a couple for benefit purposes.  The only thing not completely clear is that the claimant and her husband in this case ever have been a couple - the disregard will only apply if they were a couple before circumstances forced them to live apart.

I notice that the rule is a bit tighter than the legacy equivalent - there is nothing about “force of circumstances” in the legacy benefits and the disregard would apply if members of a couple elect to live apart out of preference while remaining a couple in the social and personal sense.  UC requires a good reason for it, which there is in this case.

Paul_Treloar_AgeUK
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Sorry for the confusion, I had another thought about the para.2 disregard that had been filtering around my head, and posted it last night before reallising it didn’t work.

Thanks for the additional information though.

JAS1
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Thanks all.  Was hoping the couple issue would be straightforward. Good points about the value of the home, I’m not aware of details regarding that but worth bearing in mind.

Thanks again