Family Law Blog: Pensions still not on divorce agenda

Tuesday November 27, 2012 at 11:02am

Only 15 per cent of divorced women say that pensions featured in their settlement, according to new research. 15 per cent! That’s shocking. We know that sorting out the finances can be the most complicated part of any settlement on divorce but I have to admit to being surprised that so many people are still simply not considering any pension pot as an asset on which both parties have a claim.

The eighth annual Scottish Widows Women and Pensions Report, published this month, showed one woman in ten over 50 is ‘wholly dependent’ on her partner’s retirement savings. The research also showed the number of women over 50 without any pension is nearly double that of men the same age – 28 per cent compared to 15 per cent. The vast majority of those surveyed say retirement provision was never discussed before marriage and they did not know enough about the fund, or their right to any claim on in the event of a divorce.

A pension is likely to be one of the top two assets that a couple have and so should always be considered in any divorce settlement. An experienced family lawyer will be able to advise on this and even call on additional expert financial help if the pension provision is complicated or spread across a number of schemes.

There is no automatic right to a slice of a spouse’s pension but they should be included in discussions around a settlement to ensure a true picture of all the assets is presented. It may be then that the couple decide to offset any benefit from the pension for the wife by, say, allocating a larger percentage of proceeds from any property sale or larger chunk of any savings.

It is important to note that when a pension is divided or shared, this does not mean that you will receive a cash lump-sum, though in certain circumstances where the recipient is over retirement age, that can be the case. A pension or part of a pension that is ordered from one party to another still remains a pension and has to be invested in a pension plan.

However, by ignoring any pension, it could be that you are selling yourself very short when reaching a settlement with your ex.

Andrew Woolley
Family solicitor


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