Most couples do not discuss their pensions before they split up, which is leading to many people – particularly women – missing out financially on divorce.

With pensions often more valuable than a couple’s home, there are growing calls to change the law so that pensions must be considered as part of the divorce process. At the moment when finances are settled out of court, there is no automatic right to know about a spouse’s pension or requirement for the pension to be shared.

Many people do not understand that pensions have a capital value that can be divided on divorce – they usually just think of them as future income and they are often ignored if they are not yet in payment.

Missing out on substantial sums

According to research published by Aviva the following trends are being seen in divorces;

  • 15% of people divorcing didn’t realise their pension could be impacted by getting divorced
  • 34% made no claim on their former partner’s pension when they divorced
  • 8% of divorcees don’t have their own pension and were relying on their spouse to finance their retirement

Research released by Manchester University also says, men approaching retirement aged 55-64 have median pension wealth of £185,000, around three times as much as women of the same age, who have median pension wealth of £55,800

When you consider that as many as one in three women currently aged between 55-70 years have experienced divorce, the number of women missing out could be extensive. Between divorcing couples, men hold between 68-81% of the parties’ combined pension wealth. It follows therefore that women stand to lose out significantly more than men unless pension sharing is considered fully as part of the divorce and financial settlement process.

Pension sharing – a simple process

The irony is that when pensions are considered on divorce, the process is simple. The principles of pension sharing were created as long ago as 2000. The divorce court has full power to divide a pension held by one spouse equally with the other spouse and will readily do so if the pension was built up largely during the marriage.

It also has the power to divide a pension held by one of the parties before the marriage and will often do so. The separation process is straightforward and relatively inexpensive but expert financial and legal advice is needed to achieve the right outcome.

Expert advice essential

If the couple are under pension age it is very easy for the right to the accumulated pension to be ignored especially if people are acting for themselves, without the support of a lawyer. On line divorce doesn’t deal with this at all so it is really easy for a valuable pension to slip through unnoticed if both sides aren’t properly advised.

Despite growing support, calls for legal reform which would force couples to disclose their pensions could be some way off. Therefore it is crucial to seek expert advice early if you are getting divorced to ensure that you don’t miss out financially.


If you have any further inquiries regarding Pensions and divorce, please feel free to contact our Family Team and we would be happy to help.