It is often the case that the family home and pensions are the assets which hold the most value. Therefore, in a situation of divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership, it is extremely important that legal advice is taken at an early stage in order to ascertain firstly, the value of those assets and secondly, how those assets may be dealt with and shared.
Those spouses who either hold a military pension, or who are married to someone who holds a military pension, would be well placed to consider carefully their claims in relation to that pension.
The court’s power | Military Pensions
The court has the power to make multiple orders over military pensions, but most commonly, that will be to look at sharing the pension between the separating couple. The mechanism for doing this is to essentially, carve off a proportion of the pension, and transfer it into the name of the other spouse. Even if retirement is some way off, the pension share is implemented and concluded at the time of the divorce, not in the future at the time of retirement.
Those service members who hold military pensions should also take advice to ascertain whether all elements of the military pension are shareable. In circumstances where military personnel are medically retired or medically discharged from the forces, it is sometimes the case that the pension they are awarded at the time of leaving, is protected from being shared with a spouse.
Pension sharing order
Armed forces pensions can be made up of the following pension elements;
- Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS) – This part of the pension is shareable and can be made the subject of the pension sharing order. Service members may be part of the 1975, 2005 or 2015 schemes.
- Service Invalidating Pension (SIP) – This is awarded if a service member is forced to retire on the grounds of ill health. This element of the pension is shareable and can be made the subject of a pension sharing order.
- Service Attributable Pension (SAP) – This element of the pension is payable to veterans who experience injury, illness or death in service. It is based on rank and the degree of disability. The SAP cannot be made the subject of a pension sharing order.
- War Disablement Pension (WDP) or War Pension Scheme (WPS) – This is essentially a compensation scheme for those veterans who suffer injury, illness or disability arising before 6th April 2005 as a result of military service. It cannot be made the subject of a pension sharing order.
- Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) – As with the WDP or WPS, this is a payment available to service members who suffer illness, injury or disability as a result of service arising after 6th April 2005. It cannot be made the subject of a pension sharing order.
What to do
In situations where there is a non-shareable element of an armed forces pension scheme, advice should be taken as to how that is treated in the overall divorce. It can often be the case, that the spouse who is not able to make a claim on that pension, can look to receive a greater share of the other assets in the pot or maintenance. It is extremely important to consider these issues at an early stage, and take legal advice as soon as possible.
If you have any further questions regarding military pensions please feel free to contact our Family Team.