On divorcing the process of financial disclosure – a full statement of your current earnings and assets – aims to protect you both.
It also seeks to ensure that you each receive a fair settlement which may well include a division of the pension benefit fund.
Pensions are often one of the most valuable assets of a marriage and play a vital role in deciding financial claims on divorce.
Pension sharing – which provides a clean break between parties, as the pension assets are split – has been given more prominence in recent years. It recently hit the headlines when a BBC producer lost her court case to reduce her unemployed ex-husband’s 33% share of her £2 million fortune.
In this particular case, The Court of Appeal reaffirmed that pension sharing is appropriate when deciding on the allocation of capital.
Judges took into account the length of the marriage and discounted the former wife’s allegation that her ex-husband had made a ‘significantly negative’ contribution to the family fortune during the marriage.
They also upheld an earlier ruling and said the original £733,650 and pension share he was awarded would meet his ‘needs’.
The criteria in considering a pension share requires the pension fund to be valued and included in the list of the family’s assets.
The receiving party needs to decide if it’s better for them to receive a percentage share or, in some circumstances, seek a greater share of the liquid capital as a “set off” when not pursuing a share of the pension.
Some divorces may entail several pension arrangements so it is important you think about which arrangements should be shared. Expert advice from an Independent Financial Adviser is necessary to ensure the correct pension(s) are shared and to what extent. Advisors will also assist with the valuation and projected future incomes.
The pension share may be internal (when the recipient becomes a member of the scheme) or eternal when the share must be invested in an existing or new arrangement of the receiving party. Utmost care should be taken to obtain details of the cost of any transfer.
The court will look at the needs of the parties and take into account what other assets are available for distribution.
Agreed financial settlements avoiding Court can also be decided through alternative processes including Mediation where an impartial third party “the mediator” helps you discuss issues confidentially and find workable agreements.
There is also Collaborative Family Law where a “no court” agreement is signed at the beginning of the process so that there is a shared commitment to finding an agreed resolution
Another option is Arbitration where a Family Law Arbitrator such as myself decides the outcome of divorce financial settlements in the role of a ‘judge’
With Mediation, Collaborative Family Law and Arbitration, once there is agreement (or an Award) details are submitted to the court for an order which enables a pension share to be implemented.
Sadly, going to Court is necessary in some cases. Before making any decisions we recommend that you consult an experienced family lawyer who can advise on the most appropriate route for your individual situation.
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, Peter is the current chair of Resolution’s Accreditation Committee, a former national chairman of Resolution and a former Deputy District Judge. www.jonesmyers.co.uk