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6 November 2017

Divorced women are missing out on £5bn in pension payments every year

Seven in ten couples do not consider pensions during divorce proceedings, leaving women short-changed by £5bn every year, according to new Scottish Widows research, reports Family Law Week.

The research shows that more than half of married people (56 per cent) would fight for a fair share of any jointly owned property, and 36 per cent would want to split their combined savings. Yet fewer than one in ten (9 per cent) claim they want a fair share of pensions, despite the average married couple's retirement pot totalling £132,000 – which is more than five times the average UK salary (£26,000).

In fact, more married people would be concerned about losing a pet during a settlement than sharing a pension (13 per cent vs 9 per cent) according to the research.

The key findings of the Scottish Widows' report are:

  • Women are less well-prepared for retirement, with only 52 per cent saving adequately compared with 59 per cent of men
  • Divorced women are even less prepared – a quarter (24 per cent) are not saving anything into a pension
  • Nearly three-quarters (71 per cent) of divorced people did not discuss pensions during divorce proceedings
  • Divorced women are missing out on £5bn in pension payments every single year.

Scottish Widows says that almost half of women (48 per cent) have no idea what happens to pensions when a couple gets divorced, which may explain why so few couples consider them as part of a settlement. A fifth (22 per cent) presume each partner keeps their own pension and 15 per cent believe they are split 50- 50, no matter what the circumstances.

Nigel Shepherd, Head of Family Law at national firm Mills & Reeve, said:

"Pension sharing was introduced almost two decades ago, but it is clear that all too often in a divorce pensions are still not being taken into account properly or at all. The problem has been made very much worse by the fact that so few people are now entitled to legal aid and are having to negotiate the minefield of financial issues on divorce without even basic legal advice. This is storing up real problems down the line, in particular for women.

"While some pensions are relatively straightforward, others (for example public sector schemes) are complex. There is no substitute for expert legal and financial advice and the costs involved should be considered an investment."