Research by the Fawcett Society has emphasised the likelihood for women to need to rely on their partner's pension in retirement as a result of decisions made when children are young.

This worried me greatly. As a family lawyer I am regularly involved in reviewing the pension assets that exist for a husband and wife, and the pension sharing orders that may be needed to equalise pension assets. But, this is not something I can currently even consider if a couple are not married.

The current law for cohabitees offers no rights for couples against the other's pension, meaning one parent may have been responsible for child care costs (as the Fawcett Society suggests) on the presumption the other would invest in pension. Should they however separate the pension would not be divided, leaving one with no pension assets.

The law relating to couples who live together is being reviewed (The Cohabitation Rights Bill has had its second reading in the House of Lords and is now at Committee Stage) and this proposes couples will be able to apply for a Financial Settlement Order if there has been economic disadvantage to one partner or benefit retained by one partner.

Unfortunately, unless and until this becomes legislation any women (or men) acting as the Fawcett Society suggests may find themselves with no ability to rely on their partner's pension at retirement should the relationship breakdown.