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Pensions & Divorce

Pension entitlements (also called “superannuation”) are usually the main security for a couple’s retirement. Therefore if a couple divorce it is important to consider whether both can be secure in the future. English law allows pensions to be shared (or “split”), or to “earmark” the income (that is to secure a set percentage of the payment).

Because there is such a variety of pensions, including state pensions and the State Earnings Related Pension Scheme (SERPS) as well as the issue of pension freedom, expert guidance is needed to ensure a fair arrangement. Foreign pensions also have to be considered.

Second to the matrimonial home, pensions are often one of the biggest assets in divorce, which is why it is so important to properly consider the most sensible way to split it.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Courts must take into account both parties’ pensions and pension rights in a divorce scenario. These include state pensions, workplace schemes and the personal pension plans of each party. In Scotland, a more mathematical approach applies; any increase in the value of your pension(s) from the date of marriage to the date of separation will also be considered by the Court when evaluating pension positions.

For a fair pension split, the first step is to find out the values of each party’s pensions. This requires asking your pension provider for a pension valuation, checking your latest annual statement for your pensions’ ‘transfer value’ (the amount you would get if you were to move your pension elsewhere) or, for more complex pensions, getting assistance from a solicitor and pensions actuary.

Current rules stipulate that basic state pensions cannot be split at divorce, although you may be entitled to claim a basic state pension using your ex-partner’s national insurance records. However, upon your remarriage, you will lose this pension entitlement. The additional state pension, which is built up in employment, can be split.

Pensions can be split in three ways:

  • Pension sharing: This allows you to claim for a percentage share of your ex-partner’s pensions, the amount of which is transferred into a pension of your own name.
  • Pension attachment: Otherwise known as ‘earmarking’, you can receive an agreed amount of your ex-partner’s net pension income or lump sum when it starts being paid to them. This option is more favoured by couples closer to retirement age.
  • Pension offsetting: The value of any pensions is offset against other assets, so for example, you receive nothing of your ex-partner’s pensions but keep the family home instead.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, only a Court can make a Pension Sharing or Attachment Order, whilst in Scotland, a Pensions Sharing Agreement can be set up outside of Court.

Pension division can be complicated: there are strict time limits, rules as to how agreements are written and the need to liaise with pension trustees, and therefore attaining guidance from a specialist solicitor such as Brookman is strongly recommended.

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Pensions

Pensions - Scenario Analysis Example #1

Mrs M consulted us. She was 52. Her husband was 54 and Chief Executive of an engineering company. He was likely to retire at 60 with a pension of half his final salary. He also had a private pension fund from years earlier. He argued that he had worked hard for his company pension and it was solely entitled to it. He proposed sharing the private pension fund.

Our solution:
We obtained a calculation that to replace half the future company pension benefit with a private pension fund would cost Mrs M £600,000. (This is a calculation called a “transfer value”) If Mrs M was to keep all the benefit she would need not only all the private pension fund but also more to provide an investment income. We settled the matter with Mr M agreeing to consent orders with a pension sharing order giving Mrs M all the private scheme and 25% of the company pension.

What our clients are saying:

‘SC’, London

“I retained Brookman solicitors at one of the hardest times in my life; it turned out I got the best outcome possible, it was one I never anticipated. This was all due to their hard work and determination. I could not have asked for a better solicitor or a better law firm.”


Google Reviews

Brookman Solicitors

66 Reviews

Jen Ade 23/07/2020

I had an initial consultation and Henry was well prepared. He gave great advice and followed through quite quickly. He was very helpful.

Chris Mullins 15/07/2020

Henry and team were most professional, considerate and efficient when handling the financial proceedings owing to my overseas divorce. I recommend their services highly. International circumstance was at first to me most daunting and confusing, given each country had its' own unique approach. Thankfully Henry was knowledgeable of the law on either side of the seas and able therefore to provide best guidance and reasoning to me which enabled favourable settlement!

Wim Jansen 24/06/2020

I contacted Brookman to ask for information regarding the validity of an international divorce court ruling. They were very quick in providing me with the right information. When I had another question a few months later around children matters I phoned them again and after taking some background information and contact details they booked me in for a free telephone consultation with 1 of their partners Talitha Brookman. She spent half an hour of her time explaining to me what I could expect and provided legal advice. All was free of charge. I would not hesitate to contact them again should any matter become more formal and have to go through court. The service has been quick, professional and very friendly.

Rebecca Brown 01/06/2020

Highly recommend this firm. Having searched around different firms for advice for some time, I had a free consultation with Henry Brookman. He was incredibly knowledgeable about my complex situation, gave straightforward advice and empowered me to understand exactly how I need to proceed.

Nik Carter 10/05/2020

I recently had a free initial consultation with Henry Brookman via video conference. He was considered and meticulous in his approach and gave me well thought through advice. He followed this up with a letter in writing summarising the advice he gave me. I would thoroughly recommend his services to anyone looking for legal representation in a divorce.