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We filed for divorce but what about my share of the pension?

20/10/2018 Posted by IAPF | Comments(0)

Q: After several years of trial separation, my husband and I, both in our early 50s, have decided to file for divorce. We got legal advice on matters to do with the house and assets, but it recently struck me that our pension pot is something which I have not yet considered. We have both contributed into our pension fund over the years, which we have had for around 17 to 18 years, although there were times when I was out of work or only working part-time when the children were young. I'm worried about my rights to my fair share, and whether there is any protection in place for me in terms of drawing down what I've contributed over the years.

A: For some couples, a pension can be their most lucrative financial asset, after the family home. In your case, after almost 20 years of saving, it's very prudent to consider the fair allocation of this fund going forward, despite going through what must be a very difficult time for you both.

Jerry Moriarty of the Irish Association of Pension Funds (IAPF) says that the fact that you, as a woman, have worked part-time at different times, likely leading to a lower level of contributions to the pot, tallies with what IAPF research has frequently found to be the case in many households - greater pension benefits often accrue in the male's name. However, there are structures in place to assist spouses with lesser contributions achieve a fair allocation of mutual savings.

Under the Family Law Act 1995, the Family Law (Divorce) Act 1996, and the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010, a court has the power to treat a pension as an asset of a separating couple, and can order that a fund be divided into whatever shares it deems appropriate.

This process is known as a pension adjustment order (PAO), and requires a proportion of pension benefits to be paid to the other spouse, or paid to a dependent member of the family.

One important point to note is that whatever percentage of the pension you are allocated, for example 50pc, it will be 50pc of the pension fund to date, not 50pc of total funds to retirement age.

A PAO must be made within 12 months of the granting of a judicial divorce.

You really should get pensions advice on this, not just legal advice.

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