If you are married or have entered into a civil partnership, you may have a claim upon your partner’s pension if you are separated. If you don’t have any pension of your own or your pension is worth less than that of your partner, you may be entitled to some of your spouse/civil partner’s pension. Only pension paid during the time you have been in a relationship is likely to be considered, so, if you have been in relationship with someone for 20 years, but your spouse or civil partner has paid into their pension for 30 years, only the 20 years that you have been together is likely to count. If there is a difference in pensions, the court can share pensions to equalise them. Pension sharing itself can only take place as part of divorce or civil partnership dissolution proceedings, either reflecting any agreement you have reached, known as a consent order or by an order of the court if you and your partner are not able to agree.
Alternatively, it may be possible to agree to “offset” pension claims and take a larger share of other assets, such as a house or investments, rather than sharing pensions, which can often be costly. It is important to obtain advice from an experienced family lawyer about the best option for your circumstances.
If you are not married, it is not possible to share pensions. Even if you agreed that it would be appropriate to share a pension, there is no legal framework to do so. If you are of pensionable age, the only option would be for funds to be drawn out of the pension scheme and to share this with the other party. There are tax implications to consider when taking funds out of a pension and it is therefore important to obtain appropriate financial advice. If agreement cannot be reached, it is not possible to ask the court to make orders to share pensions.
Author: Rachel Read-Hill, family law solicitor.