Pensions are often overlooked or undervalued in a divorce, but not by us. We're known nationally and internationally as experts on pension sharing orders and the treatment of pensions generally.
Pensions and divorce are a complicated mix. A pension can be one of the most valuable matrimonial assets. In some cases a public sector, company or personal pension can be worth more than your main home. The importance of understanding how pensions work and the options available to you when negotiating your divorce settlement can't be underestimated. This is one area of family law where choosing the right family lawyer is crucial. Get it wrong and you might not even realise the disastrous impact until many years down the line when it's too late. Get it right and your financial settlement can be structured in a way that provides the financial security that's crucial when you later come to rely on those pension benefits.
At Mills & Reeve we have unrivalled expertise and experience in pensions on divorce. Members of the team were involved in training the judges back in 2000 when pension sharing was first introduced and have been training other lawyers ever since. Most recently two of our lawyers were members of the multi-disciplinary Pensions Advisory Group (PAG) which produced a report aimed at increasing understanding and consistency in this highly complex but key area of family law.
Different pension schemes, require different approaches
We've helped clients get the best outcome in divorces involving significant pension funds including:
- Public sector pensions (eg NHS, Civil Service, Armed Forces).
- Self-Invested Personal Pensions (SIPPs) where the pension assets included commercial property and complex financial products that create tricky valuation and tax issues.
- Small Self-Administered Schemes (SSASs).
- Cases with an international element including where there's been a foreign divorce order against a UK pension.
- Final salary company schemes with a value of many million pounds.
How are pensions taken into account on divorce?
The two main options are:
- Pension sharing. All or some of a pension is transferred from one spouse to the other. The recipient gets a pension fund in their own right completely independent of the other. This is often the best option. It requires a formal court order (but this can be by agreement) and a final divorce decree absolute.
- Offsetting. One of you keeps the pension with the other being compensated from other assets. This can be the best approach for couples some way off retirement or where the pension value is relatively small.