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Family Law

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07 MAR 2014

Pensions on divorce: a study on when and how they are taken into account

This is the first detailed study into pension sharing since its introduction in England and Wales. It was designed to provide an insight into the manner and extent to which pensions are included in final divorce financial remedy orders. The overall purpose was to investigate any procedural, legal, economic or social factors which might be affecting the use of the court's powers with regard to pensions on divorce. The study was led by Hilary Woodward of Cardiff Law School, Cardiff University and Mark Sefton, former Research Associate, Cardiff Law School. The study was funded by the Nuffield Foundation

The below is a summary of Hilary Woodward's and Mark Sefton's exclusive article that will be published in the April issue of Family Law

This article summarises the findings of a study of pensions on divorce in England and Wales, which included a survey of 369 divorce court files with a final financial remedy order, interviews with 32 family solicitors and 7 district judges and expert assessment of a sample of the survey data.

The study explored the reasons for the low incidence of pension orders on divorce; the circumstances in which pension orders are most likely (or unlikely) to be made; the alternatives adopted; the apparent economic rationality and fairness of pension orders and the approaches to pensions in general; the rationales and objectives behind the orders; the quality of financial disclosure and the circumstances in which judges intervene on pensions in consent order cases.

The article concludes that pension sharing is a positive addition to the range of financial remedies on divorce but tends to be the prerogative of a relatively privileged minority. The complexity of pension issues manifests itself in a lack of clarity on pensions in financial orders and supporting documentation, and masks a gender imbalance in outcomes likely to be exacerbated by the reductions in public funding.

A full report of the study is available here.

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