The number of divorcing couples forced to share their pensions on divorce dropped by a third last year, in a 10-year low, according to statistics released in response a freedom of information request made by The Times to the Ministry of Justice.
Does this mean that divorcees are ignoring pensions and could find themselves being short-changed? A pension can be a very valuable commodity and careful consideration should be given to any pension fund when dividing the marital assets. After all, it is important to not just consider the here and now but to also think about financial security in the long term.
Pensions do not have to be complex. It can sometimes be appropriate in divorce proceedings to instruct a pensions expert, i.e. an Actuary to assist and advise on the equal division of pension benefits. When looking at pensions on divorce often the starting point is to use the cash equivalent transfer value (CETV) of a pension. However, some pensions are different to each other and the CETV cannot always be relied upon for comparison. For example, a public sector pension may provide very different benefits in retirement to that of a private pension, even if the CETV is the same.
An Actuary will consider the benefits of a pension and the retirement age options of the parties depending upon the scheme, and make suggestions as to how a pension or the pensions of the parties can be divided.
How Can a Pension Be Divided?
There are a number of ways that pensions can be shared.
Pension Sharing Orders
Pension Sharing Orders can be made whereby a portion of the pension can be transferred to a separate fund in the other spouse’s name. Division can be based on either equality of capital or equality of income in retirement.
An interest in a pension can be ‘offset’ against an asset (for example against equity in a property or against savings/investments). Given the very nature of lockdown, with divorcing parties finding themselves forced to stay at home together, and, in some cases, where there are limited assets available to re house the parties, this may be an explanation for the drop in pension sharing orders made in the last 12 months. People may be choosing to offset and have the benefit of their share of a pension fund now in liquid capital form.
Pension Attachment Orders
In addition to Pension Sharing Orders and offsetting, Pension Attachment Orders can also be used to redirect a lump sum, part of a lump sum, income or death benefits to the other spouse.
If you require specialist advice in relation to divorce, financial separation and/or pensions in particular, please contact Farleys’ experienced family law team on 0845 287 0939 or send your enquiry by email.