Family Law expert, Curtis Wray looks at Pension Sharing Orders and explains why when assessing fair and reasonable terms of settlement in a divorce, careful consideration needs to be paid to pension provision.
A recent paper published by The University of Manchester, “Pensions and Divorce: Exploratory Analysis of Quantitative Data” has highlighted concerns regarding the unequal distribution of pension wealth between men and women within the United Kingdom.
The data that was analysed was taken from the sixth round of the Wealth and Assets Survey which contained data assessing pension wealth in the Great Britain between April 2016 and March 2018. The paper focused upon the pension wealth of individuals over the age 30 with records for 28,969 individuals being considered, which included 10,408 couples.
The information and data analysed was, at the time of publishing, the most recent information and data available and provided the most up-to-date picture of pension wealth in the Great Britain.
The findings made in the paper are clear and can be concisely summarised as follows:
- Pension wealth is unequally distributed between men and women in Great Britain with men having substantially more pension wealth than women with the disparity generally increasing with age.
- The above disparity remains when looking at divorced men and women in isolation and men and women who have remarried, again, in isolation.
- Pension Sharing Orders do not seem to be resolving the disparity that has been found.
In support of the above points, the papers notes that 90% of the couples had some pension wealth between them, however, in around 50% of the couples, 90% of the pension wealth was held by one partner. In total, fewer than 15% of couples had roughly equal pension provision.
Of note, was that the data showed that in the top 40% of the couples calculated on the basis of household income, median pension wealth of these individuals exceeded their median property wealth. Essentially, the value of their combined pension provision outweighed the combined value of their property assets.
It is further noted that data from the 1990’s and 2000’s revealed that the poverty rates for women in later life were profoundly higher than men, exceeding 40%.
The findings show that there is a disparity in pension provision between married men and women but also between divorced men and women, indicating that pension sharing is not achieving what it should be.
Official statistics suggest that only 12% of divorces result in some level of pension division. This is clearly concerning given the pension disparity that has been detailed. Worryingly, a further study detailed within the paper found, following a review of 369 Court files, that it was questionable whether there had been a fair outcome when considering pension sharing.
It is noted that solicitors have informed the Pension Advisory Group that often, they are asked not to pursue a possible pension claim due to the emotional and personal costs that are associated with a dispute over pensions.
Within the papers it is stated that “there remains considerable potential for pension sharing when it comes to divorce, which could have a substantial impact on women’s finances in later life.”
It is clear that when assessing fair and reasonable terms of settlement in a divorce, careful consideration needs to be paid to pension provision.
At Girlings, we seek to ensure that any imbalance is addressed and strive to ensure that a fair outcome is achieved. Let us help address the disparity!
If you need to speak to a member of our Family Department about a Pension Sharing Order and how pensions are dealt within divorce proceedings, do not hesitate to contact our Family Law team.