Pensions are one of the assets that need to be resolved in divorce proceedings.

Statistically many people do not consider pensions on divorce and are often missing out on obtaining a share of a very valuable asset as according to the ONS 42% of the household wealth in the UK is held in pensions. Divorce inevitably changes your future plans and specialist legal advice is invaluable in finding the right solution for your future and ensuring pensions are dealt with fairly.

Is my pension affected by divorce?

When it comes to the financial settlement of your divorce, all personal assets must be disclosed including your pensions. However, splitting pensions between parties is more challenging than other assets, such as savings or property equity. For pensions, often the division is dependent on the level of the pension assets, the length of your marriage, the age of both parties and your individual circumstances.

How are pensions divided in a divorce?

This often requires the instruction of an actuary or pensions expert who will report on the value of each pension and how they can be shared given your particular circumstances. There tend to be three options for pension settlements within a divorce:

Sharing Your Pension

this involves two options:

A Pension-sharing Order

This is the most common way to share pensions, with a share of one person’s pension transferring to the other person (either within the existing pension fund or elsewhere, depending on the scheme rules). This will become a pension in that person’s name without further links between the parties. What’s significant about this option is that contributions to the pension, after the pension sharing order is implemented, will only benefit the person making them and not the other spouse – as the pensions are then separate.

A Pension Attachment Order

This option enables the person receiving the pension credit to receive a defined percentage of the other person’s pension payment, i.e. it continuously divides the pension income between both parties. This is far less commonly used as there are risks to the receiving party and can be affected by remarriage if the owner of the pension dies, then the payments will stop and can be affected by remarriage. Pension Attachment Orders are rare, but this option can be a solution for the right case but expert advice is crucial.

It is important to note that pensions can only be shared pursuant to a divorce; you cannot have a pension share in a Deed of Separation.

Off-setting pension value against other assets

Sometimes, your circumstances mean one or both parties would prefer not to share pensions and instead for the side with the lower pension provision to receive a larger share of other assets. For example, if one person wants to remain in the family home and would prefer to retain that asset rather than receive a share of the other person’s pension. Off-setting requires careful consideration of current and future needs, and it is essential to receive expert advice on this.

Keep your pension

It could be agreed you will each retain your own pension provision if that would be fair in your circumstances.

Why experts in pensions and divorce are essential

For some couples, divorce can already be a tiresome and complicated journey. However, due to the complexities of pension assets, it is important to take legal and financial advice before making any decisions as to these important issues. You need to know where you stand and what you’re entitled to. The team at Purcell can help you navigate the process of resolving your pensions through divorce and will help you identify where further expert input (such as actuarial reports) is required.

Discuss Your Pensions on Divorce Today Here.

How are pensions valued in a divorce?

When establishing the value of each party’s pension, the Cash Equivalent Value (CEV) from the relevant pension companies needs to be obtained together with additional information about how that company and scheme deals with pensions in divorce. It’s important to note that a CEV is not always a true reflection of the full value of the pension scheme in particular if it is a Defined Benefit or Final Salary scheme as they can often in reality be far more valuable than the CEV would suggest. This is when it’s recommended to instruct a Pensions on Divorce Expert who provides a detailed report to report on how pensions can be divided. Whilst they are not cheap, they are invaluable. Not properly dealing with your pensions on divorce can be a costly mistake for your retirement plans.

Is my spouse entitled to half my pension after a divorce?

This depends on your circumstances; pensions are one part of the financial pot that needs to be considered in reaching a financial settlement. When a couple gets divorced, the starting point is the assumption that their matrimonial assets should be divided equally, although there are often factors that could justify departing from equality in favour of one party.

Pensions accrued during a marriage or civil partnership by either party are marital assets available for division between the spouses. Pensions accrued before marriage are also taken into account where needs require it. However, dividing pensions is not the same as dividing funds in a joint bank account, and therefore, a 50% division may not result in an equal share of the pension. For the right settlement and a fair decision for both parties, you must seek professional advice and know what you’re entitled to.

Disclaimer: Please note that this page is for guidance only and does not replace legal advice. It is correct with the law at the time of publication but please be aware that laws may change over time. This article contains general legal information but should not be relied upon as legal advice. Please seek professional legal advice about your specific situation – contact us for dedicated help for you.

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