This week Age UK issued a report warning that women are being left worse off in retirement, as a result of them not sharing in their husband's pension pots at the time of a divorce.
However, what is important to note is that Age UK unfortunately didn't get their interpretation of the legal position correct when they suggested that there is no requirement for pensions to be considered during the divorce process. Therefore, their call on the Government to change the law, in my view, is unnecessary.
Section 25(2) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 requires that when considering a financial application arising from a divorce, the court must look at "the income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources which each of the parties to the marriage has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future". It goes on at Section 25B to say that when considering the matters to which the court should have regard, this should include any benefits under a pension arrangement which a party to a marriage has, is likely to have, or will lose the chance of acquiring.
So if the issue is not the law itself, what is the reason for research suggesting seven out of ten couples do not discuss their pensions at all prior to divorce? It seems that this is likely to be either due to a lack of legal advice, or poor legal advice. Any family law specialist who is knowledgeable and experienced in this area will ensure that pensions are addressed and where necessary will recommend that specialist input is obtained from pension experts, known as actuaries.
So the key is not to change the law, but simply make sure that the law is used effectively.
To stop them being short changed Age UK is calling for the Government to change the law so private pensions must be considered as part of the divorce process and, wherever possible, divided fairly between spouses.