Below is a guide to navigating through what may be uncertain territory during this emotional time
If you’re going through a divorce, dividing up any pensions you have will usually be one of the largest financial decisions you need to make. Agreeing financial arrangements in your divorce can seem daunting; there are so many misconceptions and myths as to what each party is entitled to that it gets confusing. The rules surrounding dissolution of a registered civil partnership are the same as those for divorce. In this guide, we use the term ‘divorce’ to mean the end of a registered civil partnership as well as the end of a marriage.
A pension is often the largest or second largest capital asset in a marriage or registered civil partnership. However, pensions can be complex and confusing at the best of times. Frequently, one person has a substantial pension and the other might have none or a very limited pension provision because, for example, they have given up their job to look after the children. A decision will need to be made as to whether that pension or pensions should be shared or if you should receive more of another asset, such as the home instead.
Universal valuation method for pensions
It is important that pensions are considered in the financial settlement to arrive at an accurate valuation. The universal valuation method for pensions is the Cash Equivalent (CE). A divorcing couple will inevitably be required to obtain CEs for each pension scheme of which they are or have been a member. The advantage of CEs is that they are easily obtainable and provide an approximate ‘snapshot’ value of a pension fund. The difficulty is that, in some circumstances, the CE can provide a wildly inaccurate valuation. The CE, which will be calculated by the trustees of each scheme in accordance with their own rules, is a calculation of the cash sum that the scheme will pay to discharge their obligation to pay income in retirement. The value of the pension benefits to the individual member may be very different, and it may cost far more to purchase equivalent benefits on the open market. This can be important in a divorce context, where using only CEs can produce unfair outcomes
What exactly can be divided depends on where in the UK you’re divorcing
In England and Wales