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Police Pensions on Divorce or Dissolution

Police pensions are often the most valuable asset on divorce and yet, due to their complexity, a great deal of confusion surrounds them. Officers who do not seek guidance from an expert often find themselves provided with incorrect and often misleading advice from well-meaning others.

Following a separation it is important to get advice about the financial arrangements surrounding your pension including how the courts are likely to deal with the pension as part of any overall financial settlement, as there are various options available including Pension Sharing Orders or offsetting against other assets, such as savings or equity in a family property.

In complicated divorce cases, particularly those where the pension is already in payment due to retirement or ill health, it is not uncommon for it to be necessary to seek advice from a pension actuary who provides a report about the different pension needs and options within the court process. The conclusions reached in such reports may prove critical in informing the court about how issues in relation to pensions held by both parties should be resolved. It is very important you have a lawyer who is confident from the outset, ensuring the correct questions are asked and to vigorously challenge any conclusion, making certain your interests are properly protected.

Because of the various options available for the division of pension assets upon divorce or dissolution, there are many myths surrounding them. For example, the recipient of a Pension Sharing Order in relation to a police pension does not receive an immediate lump sum equivalent to the “share” and will have to wait until their 60th birthday to realise any benefits.  Further, if the person having their pension deducted has already retired, they will experience an immediate deduction in any income they are already receiving, even if the recipient might not receive theirs for a number of years, because they are not yet 60 years old.

When deciding how to deal with your pension, and other matrimonial assets, the Family Court will consider a number of different criteria and it may be that a Pension Sharing Order may not be the best outcome based on the length of your marriage, the value of your pension, your length of service and the value of the other matrimonial assets. For example, if a marriage is short, a court might prefer to “offset” any interest in pension funds generated during the marriage by way of a smaller lump sum. No two situations are the same and you should have a lawyer who understands these complexities and how the different circumstances might affect the outcome.

If you would like specialist advice from a family lawyer then please contact Slater and Gordon on 0808 175 7710 and we’ll be happy to help.

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