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Should Pensions Be Shared in a Divorce?

Posted by Nicola Weeks

16-11-2017

Do you have a pension?

 

Does your spouse have a pension?

 

Do you and your spouse know what would happen to these pensions if you decided to divorce?

 

Recent research carried out by Scottish Widows showed that 71% of divorced couples did not discuss pensions as part of their financial settlement arising out of divorce. This means that seven in ten couples may not have considered this asset properly.

How does this compare to other assets the parties might own?

As part of the research undertaken by Scottish Widows, married people were asked what they would consider in the event of a divorce; 56% of married people would make sure that they secured a share of jointly owned property and 36% would want to split combined savings.

In comparison, only 9% of married people would want to make sure they received a fair share of their spouse’s pension. This is in spite of the fact that, on average, a married couple is likely to have around £132,000 invested in pensions, which is almost 5 times the average UK salary (£26,000).

It is clear that pensions are still an unexplored area for many and that they not being taken into proper consideration, if they are considered at all.

So why is this the case?

One of the reasons for this could be that there is a general lack of knowledge about the ability to share pensions upon a divorce. Scottish Widows’ research shows that almost half of women (48%) have no idea what happens to pensions when a couple gets divorced.

The ability to share a spouse’s pension was introduced almost 20-years ago. It means that one party’s rights under a pension scheme are divided so that each spouse has their own independent rights under the scheme or under two separate schemes.

It is crucial that men and women better understand what happens to pension pots during divorce proceedings and treat them like the high value assets they are.

When looking at pensions as part of a divorce process, it is important that you do the following:

  1. Obtain all relevant information about your own pension. Contact your pension company to obtain a Current Estimated Transfer Value statement which will indicate the likely value of your pension pot. Your spouse can also request this information from their own pension company and this information can then be shared and discussed between you.
  2.  Do not forget about the state pension and find out what your state pension entitlement might be. You can apply online for a state pension forecast at https://www.gov.uk/check-state-pension/
  3. Pensions are complex assets and it is important that you receive the appropriate legal and financial advice when considering these within the divorce proceedings.
  4. Finally – Make sure you do not forget about pensions when discussing financial settlement!

Nicola Weeks

Senior Associate

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