In most families, the two largest assets are the family home and a pension fund.
Disputes over sharing a pension can sometimes be very acrimonious between divorcing partners or when a civil partnership is dissolved.
It is crucial to take expert legal advice to protect your interest in a pension fund – especially as the pension landscape is changing.
Under the Pensions Act 1995 and the Welfare Reform Act 1999, divorce courts can make judgments about how a pension is divided up between a couple. If one party has, for example, given up their career to take on a homemaking or caring role in a family, they may not have a substantial pension pot themselves – and a divorce court may feel they should be compensated as a result.
Pension rights can be lost if couples divorce. If one party has relied on the belief that in later years they will be entitled to their spouse’s pension – including if their spouse dies – then divorce or ending a civil partnership without sufficient pension provision for the future can potentially lead to financial hardship.
This can be especially relevant for couples who live together without marrying for long periods – and if one partner is still legally married, it is highly likely that if they lose their partner through death, the pension will either die with them or go their next of kin or named next of kin, as the law states a surviving partner must have been legally able to marry at the time of their partner’s death in order to inherit their pension.
Whether couples who are not legally married separate or not, it is vital to seek legal advice about what would happen if the partner with the more substantial pension fund died, especially if no will exists.
When a couple divorces, assets are divided under Section 25 of the Joint Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. This does not automatically give one partner rights to the other’s pension, however – especially if one partner has been awarded the marital home because of caring for children.
The courts may, however, give pensions a pecuniary value for ancillary relief proceedings – this means that the given value of the pension can be offset against other assets such as the family home to estimate a fair divorce settlement.
Pensions in divorce can be a highly complex area for couples to reach agreement on, however, so taking legal advice is crucial.
Duncan Lewis divorce solicitors offer expert and detailed legal advice to individuals and couples on pension rights in divorce.
Duncan Lewis also has successful departments specialising in family and children law, property law and litigation – and has considerable expertise in international divorce settlements and marriage and divorce under Islamic law.
Duncan Lewis also offers lawyers supported family mediation services in disputes over pension funds in divorce.
Duncan Lewis divorce solicitors offer an initial client meeting with a fixed fee for cases involving pensions in divorce settlements and in separation agreements.
Once the details of a case have been assessed it is usually possible to offer a further fixed fee scale, which clients will be advised of in advance.
Duncan Lewis advises clients get in touch as soon as possible for an assessment of their case and advice on sharing a pension in divorce or if you have decided to separate.
For expert legal advice on Pensions in Divorce and related family matters, call Duncan Lewis Divorce Solicitors in confidence on 020 7923 4020.