Pensions on Divorce Interdisciplinary Working Group

The Nuffield funded study Pensions on Divorce found that there was a widespread lack of confidence amongst practitioners on the issue of pensions on divorce, poor quality pension disclosure on the court files and a substantial proportion of potentially unfair outcomes. Of the 369 court files with a final financial remedy order studied, 80% revealed at least one relevant pension and yet only 14% contained a pension order. Practitioners confirmed that offsetting pensions against other capital assets remained the most common way of dealing with pensions, but there was little if any agreement on how the pensions or the offset should be valued. The little, and sometimes contradictory, guidance that case law offers is chiefly geared towards bigger money cases.

The project aimed to make a major improvement to the practice of pensions on divorce, of particular benefit to those divorcing couples who are not especially wealthy but nevertheless hold pensions of some value.

That project led to the establishment of the Pension Advisory Group (PAG) - an interdisciplinary working group chaired by Mr Justice Francis and His Honour Judge Edward Hess, and supported by the Family Justice Council and the President of the Family Division.   The purpose of the PAG has been to provide an in-depth analysis of how pensions on divorce should be approached, particularly in relation to valuing pensions and offsetting them against other capital assets. The PAG comprises members of the judiciary, practising solicitors, barristers, a mediator and academics with special expertise in pensions and financial remedies on divorce, actuaries, financial advisers, and other pension experts.

In July 2019, the Pension Advisory Group published its essential guide to the treatment of pensions on divorce. PAG’s long awaited report brings guidance to family judges, lawyers and pension experts encouraging fairer settlements and helping to manage liability.

Supplementary material has also been published including reports of focus groups and an online survey, and an update to Appendix K of the report which deals with pension fund insolvency.