There has been a surge in DIY divorces, divorces that avoid using lawyers, since the No Fault divorce was introduced in April 2022.
There has been a drop in “pension sharing orders” that aim to split pension assets fairly between both parties. The Ministry of Justice has reported that applications fell by 35% in the four years to 2021 to about 23,600, in spite of an increase in divorces between 2017 and 2020.
This trend is particularly concerning for women, for whom a quick-fix DIY divorce could have disastrous consequences in their retirement.
According to research carried out by the University of Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing, divorced men aged between 55 and 64 have on average five times more in pension savings than divorced women of the same age.
Divorced non-cohabiting men in this age group had an average pension pot of £100,000 compared with just £19,000 for divorced women of the same age.
There is a real risk that some female divorcees will be worse off in retirement unless they have taken expert advice to consider their pension claim following their divorce.
Moneyhelper, the government’s free debt guidance and advice service, advises those planning a DIY divorce to seek professional advice on any proposed asset split, to ensure that the split is fair, particularly involving pension assets.
There is no time limit on financial claims arising from a marriage and they are not extinguished by a final divorce order alone. In the case Wyatt v Vince, the ex-wife brought a claim 18 years after the final divorce order. The court made it clear that financial claims survive indefinitely. It is therefore important to protect a pension from a future claim by dealing with the financial claims following the divorce at the same time.
It is imperative that both parties seek expert legal advice, and that a final financial order is made with the assistance of lawyers. If a spouse has remarried they can still bring a claim against their former spouse for a pension sharing order, unless a final financial order has been made in respect of the previous marriage which will prevent any further such claims.
Keith Bull is the Head of family and divorce and is an accredited family law expert on the Resolution family law panel and an advanced member of the law society’s family law panel. Keith has over 30 years’ experience and can be contacted on 0161 330 6821 or email@example.com.