How are pensions split in a divorce?

An often-overlooked part of the divorce process are pensions. Pensions are among the most valuable assets someone can accumulate throughout their lifetime, yet they are often not considered up until divorce proceedings are launched. Inconveniently, dividing pensions frequently proves to be a complicated and cumbersome process.

At Tayntons, we have seen the emotional toll that divorce can take on a person and acknowledge that most clients want to get this process over and done with as quickly as possible so they can move on with their lives. That being said, it’s always useful to be informed about the intricacies of the divorce process, so you can keep yourself financially protected.

In this blog, we will discuss:

  • The different ways that pensions can be split during a divorce
  • Important information to know during this process
  • How our solicitors can help you with pension division during divorce

When considering pensions and divorce, it is first essential to understand that pensions are considered by the court to be ‘marital property,’ meaning that any pension benefits that have accrued during the marriage will be subject to division. It’s important to note, however, that any pension money that was accrued before or after the marriage is generally not subject to division.

How can pensions be divided?

After a divorce, pensions are typically divided either through pension offsetting, a pension sharing order or a pension earmarking order.

Regardless of the most appropriate method, it is important to highlight that the process of dividing pensions during divorce can be very complex and will, in most instances, require the support of an expert divorce and pensions solicitor and an actuarial report.

Pension offsetting

One method for dealing with pensions, offsetting involves one spouse surrendering their entitlement to the other’s pension in exchange for a greater portion of any other shared assets that are involved in the divorce settlement.

This may be seen as a suitable option for separating couples as it enables a clean break that cuts all financial ties and makes the process relatively simple. The pension administrators  will provide a value for the Pension fund (often known as a CETV)  and the value of the pension against the value of other assets which could be used to offset are considered.

Pension sharing orders

A pension sharing order involves the transfer of a portion of one spouse’s pension benefits to the other spouse. This is normally done by setting up a new pension for the receiving spouse, or by adding to an existing pension.

The amount that is then transferred is usually done so as a percentage, which is based on the value of the pension at the time of divorce. As an example, if a pension is worth £100,000, and the sharing order is decided at 50%, then the amount transferred to the spouse will be £50,000.

This method of dividing pensions during a divorce has become more and more popular in recent years, due to the fact that it provides a clean break between both spouses and allows both parties to have separate pensions. They also provide more flexibility than other methods, as the receiving spouse has more control over their pension.

Pension Earmarking orders

Conversely, a pension earmarking order (also known as pension attachment order) involves the attachment of a portion of one spouse’s benefits to the other.

This instead means that the receiving spouse will not have their own separate pension, but will receive a portion of their ex-spouses’ pension payments every time they are paid out.

This is becoming less common nowadays due to the method’s inflexibility and the fact that they force the receiving spouse to remain dependent on their ex-spouses’ pension.

How do you decide which pension splitting option is best?

When determining which pension splitting method is best for your situation, there are several variables to consider, such as:

  • The amount of the pension
  • The health and age of each spouse
  • The length of the marriage
  • Is the pension itself in payment

Of course, the value of the pension remains one of the most important aspects of the decision, as this will reveal how much is available to be divided between the two spouses. However, it’s also important to consider the age and overall health of each party.
If one of the parties is significantly older and in poor health, they may require a larger share of the pension benefits so they can have financial security in retirement. An actuarial report can help with understanding the implications of these factors.

In the UK, the length of a marriage is also taken into account, as this will determine how the amount of pension money accrued during the period of the marriage. If the period was relatively short, then of course there be far less valuable than if the marriage had lasted for many years.

In the case that the marriage had lasted for a very long time, the assets from a pension would likely become a significant asset that would need special consideration.

It is important to stress that the process of dividing pensions during the divorce process can be complicated and arduous.

At Tayntons, we always recommend seeking the legal counsel of experienced and expert professionals when it comes to the monetary aspects of any separation. This is especially important when the situation involves more complicated issues such as multiple pensions, overseas pensions or pensions that have specifically defined benefits.

How can we help you?

Our experienced team of divorce solicitors collectively have years of experience in this field. We fully understand that any time a relationship breaks down, it is a stressful period for everyone involved. Emotions tend to run high in these circumstances, and our goal is to reduce your stress as much as possible.

Our divorce solicitors have dealt with almost every situation possible when it comes to dealing with pensions and have an excellent knowledge of exactly how pensions are divided in divorce. Our highly experienced team will be on hand to make sure that all paperwork and documentation is submitted promptly and efficiently, and that all of the requirements have been met.

We believe in a collaborative approach that seeks to keep conflict to a minimum whilst still securing you the best possible outcome. Our divorce solicitors will make sure to keep you informed at all times, as we understand that communication is one of the most important parts of making the divorce process as simple and stress-free as possible.

For initial advice and to discuss your legal options, we offer an initial consultation of up to 45 minutes for a fixed fee of £75 + VAT (£90.00).

Get in contact with our divorce and pension solicitors

If you’re considering your options in terms of pensions and divorce, you can speak to one of our friendly and professional divorce and pension solicitors by using our enquiry form or giving us a call on 0800 158 4146.

To contact us please call 0800 158 4147 or 03330 145451 or email

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