The Welfare Reform and Pensions Act came into force nearly 19 years ago and enabled occupational and personal pensions to be shared between couples on divorce. The fact that a third of married couples do not know of this entitlement is a concern, and it suggests that specialist legal advice is not being obtained. This is particularly more concerning for the party in the marriage who may have given up their career or worked reduced hours to look after their family and has not accrued a large occupational pension as they could be ignoring an entitlement to a share of their spouses pension.
This recent statistic highlights the importance of obtaining quality legal advice on your divorce and to make sure it covers all assets of the marriage, not just the assets parties are often primarily concerned with such as the family matrimonial home. If not, you could be left seriously out of pocket if your solicitor does not fully investigate your spouse’s pension pot.
When pension pots are reviewed the “transfer value” of the pension should be requested from the pension provider and, depending on the nature of the scheme, that value can be used as a starting point for negotiations between the parties for what their entitlement should be. Once the share entitlement of the pension pot has been agreed, a pension sharing order can be made whereby the owner of the pension pot faces a debit and the other party receives a pension credit. The order will be formally made by the court which will state the amount the receiving party is entitled to.
Where couples have had a long marriage they could have each accrued a large pension. If this asset was overlooked or the parties were not correctly advised of their right to a proportion of the other’s pension this could have a substantial impact on negotiations and the final award made. Pensions could create financial security for one party and their importance as an asset of the marriage should not be overlooked. With the correct legal advice, depending upon the circumstances, negotiations should be entered regarding pensions and if appropriate a pension sharing order made.
If you would like to obtain advice from our Family team about pension sharing orders please contact Andrew Smith or Lilly Grant in our York office, Chris Burns or Sophie Arrowsmith in our Leeds office or Richard Buckley in our Sheffield office.
Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.