Royal London discovered that divorce pension splits for women who divorce are left with less than one third of the average pension wealth of married couples, with the average divorced woman over 50 having pension wealth of £131,000, compared to £454,000 for the average married couple.
Is this made up for by having a greater share of property? According to the research, this is not the case, with the average divorced woman over 50 ending up with less than half of the property wealth of married couples of the same age (£359,000 for married couples in comparison to £169,000 for divorced women).
Royal London rightly point out that understanding a pension’s true value can be a complex business. Unfortunately, putting pensions to the bottom of the divorce ‘to-do’ list, or worse, ignoring them altogether when negotiating a financial settlement, can result in people missing out on a share of what is often a highly valuable asset. In fact, it is not unusual for pensions to be worth more than the family home.
Royal London Director of Policy, Steve Webb, described divorced women as the poor relations “when it comes to pensions wealth in later life”.
“When couples split up there is an understandable focus on family issues and on highly visible assets such as the family home. But very often one partner will have pension rights which are less visible but can be just as valuable and people need to take expert financial advice
on this crucial issue.”
The court’s starting point for the division of assets upon divorce is a 50/50 split. This includes pensions. The courts are able to order that one spouse gives the other a proportion of their pension/s.
While dividing or sharing pensions may not be right in every instance, knowing the value of the pension/s is a vital part of ensuring you have a fair financial settlement.
Understanding how much any pensions are worth could enable you, for example, to offset the value of your spouse’s pensions against other assets. Pension offsetting is where one spouse gets a greater share of the other asset/s, in order to make up for the fact they are not getting a share of the pension/s. For example, one person could agree to a larger share of the family home and in exchange, the other person could keep the pension for themselves.
In order to make an informed decision about how to deal with pensions upon divorce, it is vital to understand the true value of any pension/s. It’s highly recommended that you seek expert legal advice about what can be a highly complex issue.
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