Do Pensions Count On Divorce?
Senior Associate and Mediator Nicole Phillips comments on how pensions are dealt with upon divorce in light of the Nuffield Foundation Study report published towards the end of last year (2023).
Pensions do ‘count’ on divorce, however a lack of awareness and understanding of this can lead to pensions being forgotten, which can get in the way of a fair financial outcome.
The Nuffield Foundation research study report, ‘Fair Shares? Sorting out money and property on divorce’, was published in November 2023. The report is based on an analysis of survey responses from 2,415 individuals who had divorced in the last 5 years, as well as the results of qualitative interviews.
The report provides an interesting picture of the financial and property arrangements that people make when they divorce, and it evaluates whether those arrangements are ‘fair’ according to our existing laws.
The study found that many people reach financial agreements on divorce without obtaining legal advice. The study also found that wives, and in particular mothers, were in a more precarious financial position at the point of divorce than husbands. This was in part as a result of women generally having less in the way of pension than their spouses, before and after divorce. Over 37 per cent of those surveyed did not know the value of their own, let alone their spouses’, pension pot.
A general lack of awareness and understanding of pensions amongst the public is likely to be to blame for this problem. Pensions can also more easily be forgotten about on divorce because pension funds cannot usually be accessed until retirement. People tend to view pensions as less relevant or tangible than, say, money held in bank accounts, or equity in a family home.
The findings in the report shine a light on the fact that a widespread unawareness that the law allows for pensions to be divided between spouses on divorce, is leaving many people, and women in particular, financially vulnerable after divorce.
In view of these findings, it is so important to get the message out that pensions do ‘count’ as an asset on divorce and that they can be shared between spouses.
It was heartening to read that the study identifies legal input as having had a material impact on the fairness of settlements reached. It records that legal oversight, whether through the court, or through the provision of legal advice, appears to provide a potentially valuable form of monitoring which may protect individual divorcees from unfair financial arrangements.
At FLiP we have a team of expert lawyers who can help you obtain the information you need to understand your pension rights, as well as your spouses’ pension rights. We can advise on the best approach to dividing pensions on divorce to ensure that your future financial security is protected as far as possible.
Nicole is a Senior Associate solicitor and mediator at Family Law in Partnership. She handles all aspects of private family law, assisting and supporting clients who are navigating divorce or separation to resolve any financial or children issues that may arise. Nicole combines a warm, sympathetic manner with tactical nous and incisive judgment. Nicole is also collaboratively trained.