'My Friends are my Family': An argument about the limitations of contemporary law's recognition of relationships in later life

Sue Westwood*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Current law and social policy in the various UK legal systems privilege the conjugal couple, biological and filial relationships. Friendship remains on the margins of regulatory recognition. Yet friendship is of growing significance in contemporary social relationships. This is particularly so for older people, especially older lesbian, gay and bisexual people. This paper explores the place of friendship in key areas of law and social policy relating to older age: pensions, benefits and inheritance; medical decision making; mental health and mental capacity legislation; and social care policy. The extent to which contemporary law is keeping up with changing relationship forms will be considered, together with its implications for equality in later life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)347-363
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Social Welfare and Family Law
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2013


  • equality
  • family
  • friendship
  • lesbian, gay and bisexual
  • older people
  • relationship regulation

Cite this