When a marriage breaks down the ramifications take many different forms. Depending on the specific circumstances, and whether there’s any possibility of an ongoing amicable relationship, the emotional impact is likely to be matched by the practical implications and also the financial fallout. As specialists in family law, the team at Higgins Miller has wide experience of dealing with the different types of divorce financial settlement.
Although we concentrate on delivering advice which is practical, accessible and accurate, we don’t try to pretend there aren’t very strong emotions involved. Many people approach reaching a divorce financial settlement as a competitive activity. As professionals, we try to take any anger out of the situation and minimise the time spent reaching an agreement and the chances of the two parties having to face each other in court.
The issue of pensions often, after property, makes up the largest single component of any divorce financial settlement. A recent High Court ruling gave equal pension rights to same sex married couples, after ruling that it was discriminatory for same sex partners not to be entitled to inherit a full pension. This development is likely to fuel an increase in the number of people getting married in order to guarantee an entitlement to their partner’s pension, and it is this entitlement which often forms a contentious aspect of a divorce financial settlement.
Here at Higgins Miller we’ve dealt with many cases of this kind, and we understand that taking the emotion out of the argument and reaching an agreement as amicably as possible is often the best means of both speeding up the process and limiting costs.
There are several different options available when it comes to dividing a pension upon divorce, and the most suitable in each case will depend upon the rules of the pension scheme or schemes in question and the personal circumstances of the individuals involved. A pension can be shared, which might mean a percentage of the pension(s) in question being transferred into your name, or the value of the pension could be offset. This last option means that, for example, one partner receives a larger share of the value of any property, in return for agreeing that the other partner should keep more of their pension. Depending upon the age of the parties involved you may wish to set up deferred pension sharing, which means they you wait until the other partner has actually retired before starting to receive a share of their pension. Couples who opt for a pension sharing arrangement will have to obtain a court order to make it happen.
In all cases it is vital to obtain expert legal advice, as any mistakes could prove to be extremely costly. It has to be remembered that a divorce financial settlement will impact upon the standard of living of everyone involved for many years to come. This is just one reason why some people opt to draw up a prenuptial agreement. This is an agreement which sets out which partner owns which assets prior to marriage, as well as how these assets are to be divided in the event of a divorce. If you’re thinking of drawing up a prenuptial agreement then it’s vital that you seek expert legal advice. Although prenuptial agreements are not yet legally binding, they are increasingly being used by courts when reaching decisions regarding a divorce financial settlement. In the past, and certainly as far as media coverage is concerned, prenuptial agreements have been regarded as something which only high net worth individuals have to think about. The fact that assets such as a family home are now likely to be worth much more than used to be the case, allied to the importance which good pension provision has taken on in light of increasing life expectancy, means that agreements of this kind are now likely to be useful for increasingly large numbers of couples. As well as offering a degree of certainty, they help to avoid the kind of disputes which can cost a great deal in terms of time and money.
If you’re working through a divorce financial settlement, or are simply exploring the options following any divorce which might take place in the future, then please get in touch with us to ensure you have all of the information and advice you need. We’ll provide a 20 minute appraisal free of charge and if, after that, you wish to proceed further, a fixed fee first appointment costs just £50 (plus VAT). If you’d like to learn more about the financial implications of divorce, or the option of drawing up a prenuptial agreement, then please ring us on 0161 429 7251, or email [email protected]. For more details on the wider funding options we offer, please see here.