When it comes to divorce, pensions are treated just like any other asset.
However, unlike bricks and mortar, it can sometimes be difficult to establish whether a pension exists and what it might be worth. This can become even more difficult in an acrimonious split, when one partner refuses to divulge the financial details of their pension arrangements.
If this situation arises, there are number of steps you can take with the help of a specialist solicitor.
First, you need to find out if a pension exists.
A useful first step is to take advantage of the Government’s Pension Tracing Service – an online database containing details of all workplace and personal pension schemes.
Although you won’t be able to search your partner’s details, you can make an application to the court for them to be forced to make search by putting in all of their past and current employers, together with any personal pension providers that might be relevant.
This won’t give you the value of the pension, but it will tell you who the provider is and give you details of where to write for more information.
The next step in securing a fair allocation of assets is to find out how much the pension is worth by obtaining a calculation of the Cash Equivalent Value (CEV) of the pension benefits that have accrued.
Under normal circumstances, this information is put on the table along with any other assets in order to work out what each spouse is entitled to. However, it does happen occasionally, when relationships have completely broken down, that this information is not produced.
In cases of a refusal to provide CEV information about a known pension fund, there is provision in law for the court to require the member spouse to obtain information and also for the court to order the pension provider to supply that information to the court.
To make that happen, the non-member spouse’s solicitor would send a copy of the application for a pension sharing order direct to the pension supplier. It is then obliged to provide certain information to the member, including the value of the pension benefits.
If the member spouse refuses to disclose that information, an application can be made to the court for a separate order for this information to be provided.
Once all of the information is before the court, it enables a decision to be made about how the pensions should be split equitably between the parties. This split can take a number of forms, of which the most usual are:
- Pension sharing – where you receive a percentage share of any one (or more) of your ex-partner’s pensions. This is either transferred into a pension in your name or you can join your ex-partner’s pension scheme, depending upon the pension scheme rules and independent financial advice;
- Pensions offsetting – where the value of any pension(s) is offset against other assets, for example, you might obtain a bigger share of the family home in return for your ex-partner keeping their pension.
Amid the stress and emotional turmoil of divorce, it can be difficult to think beyond the day-to-day. However this is precisely the time to focus on planning ahead and avoid later regrets about failing to make adequate provision for the future.
About Peter Jones
Peter Jones is one of the country’s leading divorce and family lawyers. A qualified arbitrator and mediator, Peter set up Jones Myers as the first niche family law firm in the north of England in 1992 and has acted for a string of high-profile clients.
Renowned for his sympathetic approach, he is a former national chairman of Resolution, a former Deputy District Judge – and instigated the D5 Group of law firms that promotes excellence in family law.
Leeds and Essex based Jones Myers, consistently top-rated Yorkshire family law firm by Chambers and the Legal 500 Legal Guides, has been one of the pioneers of collaborative family law – known as the ‘pain-free way to divorce’ – which advocates a more amicable, and often speedier, route to divorce, without resorting to the courts.