Am I entitled to half my ex’s pension?

23 July 2013


I am in the process of divorcing my husband, from whom I've been separated for 19 months. We have a joint mortgage, which I have been paying since he left the property, and I am paying for any maintenance on the house. Our 17-year-old son lives with me and I am classed as a resident parent.My ex-husband claims a pension of £590 a month from a previous employer and was doing so for four years before we separated. I have not received any of this income since he left. I would like to know whether I would be entitled to half of this pension each month. I would be able to survive financially if this was the case, but a mediator, who didn't seem to know much about pensions, seems to think it will be paid to me in a lump sum at pension age. I believe I am also entitled to a lump sum from a second pension my ex has, and that this will have to be paid into a pension fund for me.As I have always been a stay-at-home mum and will only have the provision of a state pension, I am obviously worried about my future retirement. I now work 16 hours a week on minimum wage and pay no tax or insurance. I am not in a pension scheme but have just been offered the chance to pay into one through my employer. I am 52, so is it too late?I find it unfair that my ex should have the full amount of pension while I struggle.
AN, Nuneaton


Your divorce proceedings should aim to ensure you and your ex-husband get a fair share of the marital assets. The largest assets are often any equity in the marital home and pension arrangements. However, how any assets are split and the proportion each of the parties receives depends upon a number of factors and is certainly not the same in every case. This makes it important that you take professional advice from somebody who can fully understand your position.

The law will take into account pensions in payment, such as the pension your ex-husband is receiving from his ex-employer, although there is still a degree of inconsistency over how these pensions are dealt with. The court can also place a maintenance order where the person with the higher income makes regular maintenance payments to the person with the lower income.

Maintenance orders can be changed in the future if people's circumstances change or after a set period of time. Your ex-husband might also have to pay you child maintenance, even though your son is older than 16, if he is in full-time education.

These matters can be complex, so you should take expert legal advice, rather than relying solely on your mediator if you aren't confident they have a full understanding of the issues. If you can't afford a solicitor, speak to your local Citizens Advice Bureau to see if they can point you in the right direction.

Finally, even though you haven't any pension arrangements of your own, once the divorce proceedings are concluded it would be helpful if you can save as much as you're able to. With changes to the state pension coming into force, people should be less reliant on means-testing in retirement in the future and should be able to benefit from any money they have managed to save. It is therefore better for you to save something than nothing at all.