Is your pension protected after a divorce?

Pension protection - couple getting divorced

The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show that in 2020, there were 103,592 divorces granted in England and Wales. The new no fault divorce law that came into force on the 6th April, this figure is likely to increase in the coming years.

It is vital that you take expert legal advice in relation to the impact of divorce on finances, so that your pension is protected.

The UK currently holds £15.2 trillion pounds in household wealth. Private pensions represent the biggest single component of this wealth – at around 42% of the total (£6.4 trillion). Agreeing a fair separation of this pension wealth at a time of divorce will be critical to the future financial well-being of both parties.

The average age for divorcees has hit an all-time high:  47 years and 5 months for men, and 44 years and 9 months for women.

Research from Aviva has indicated some alarming results:

  • 15% of divorced people did not realise their pension could be impacted by getting divorced.
  • 34% made no claim on their former partner’s pension and it was not included as an asset in the settlement when they did divorce.
  • 8% of divorcees declared that they did not have their own pension savings as they were relying on their partner to finance their retirement.
  • 19% as a result of divorce, declared that they will be, or are, significantly worse off in retirement.
  • 32% following a divorce declared that they have used their savings for support
  • 20% used credit card for everyday living expenses
  • 18% borrowed from a friend or relatives.
  • 15% regularly sold clothing/toys/other household items just to make ends meet.
  • 12% admitted to having to go out to work, having not worked before their divorce, or get a second job (10%).

12% worryingly, also cut back, or cancelled, their pension contributions – putting their future retirement income further at risk.

It is vitally important that you take expert legal advice on pension claims upon the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage or civil partnership, that way your pension will be protected.  

How can a pension be divided?

The court’s objective is an outcome which ought to be as fair as possible in all the circumstances. The court can make the following orders in relation to pension claims:

Pension Sharing Order:  This is the most common type of pension order.  The order will set out what percentage of a pension fund should be transferred from one spouse or civil partner to another.  The advantage s that it enables a clean break between the couple.

Pension Attachment Order:  This is an order where either part or all of a spouse or civil partner’s pension benefits ae redirected to their former spouse or civil partner at the time that the pension comes into payment on retirement. However, if the spouse dies before the pension comes into retirement the former spouse will not receive any benefit, which is why these types of orders are rare.

Offsetting Order:  This is an order where one party will retain their pension to achieve a fair outcome and the other spouse or civil partner will retain more of the non-pension assets, such as the former family home or investments.  

Deferred Lum Sum Order:  This order retains any pension funds but both parties will receive an agreed lump sum at the time of either pension member’s retirement.

How does the court determine what percentage of a pension should be shared?

Each case will depend on the age of the couple, the value of the pensions and the type of pension scheme each party holds.

The starting point is to seek full and frank financial disclosure of each parties’ income and capital position, to include full details of all pension including the cash equivalent transfer value [CETV] and details of any benefits under each pension scheme.  

It is always advisable to take expert advice from a pension on divorce expert [PODE] or actuary. They will advise the best way to achieve equality of capital value; equalisation of pension income upon retirement or any benefits that may be received from the pension provision.  

It is imperative that expert advice is obtained as different pension schemes have different rules and benefits.

How can Bromleys help?

It is important that in the first instance specialist advice is obtained from a family solicitor.

  • In the absence of a legally binding financial court order, either spouse or civil partner can make a claim against the other’s finances, regardless of how long they have been divorced.
  • There is no time limit to bringing a pension claim as it can be brought at anytime until there is a consent order.
  • A former spouse or civil partner can make a pension claim after they have themselves been remarried.

At Bromleys we recommend that financial order is obtained upon divorce as it will sever the financial times between the couple and prevent any further claims during joint lives or upon death.  

Keith Bull, Head of Family & Divorce can be contacted on 0161 330 6821 or kbull@bromleys.co.uk.

Francesca Rigby, Head of Private Client & Court of Protection can be contacted on 0161 694 4172 or frigby@bromleys.co.uk.