Divorce and Your Military Pension

Divorce and Your Military Pension. image of Armed Forces pension scheme 2015Nobody goes into a marriage thinking that it may potentially break down. Apart from the emotional upset and trauma caused by the failing relationship, financial concerns and worries about money are at the forefront of many divorcing couples’ minds. This is a particular concern for UK military personnel, whether serving or retired, and one of the main causes of worry is what will happen to your valuable military pension if you get divorced. So does your spouse have an entitlement to your military pension?

How Long Were You Married?

The UK Armed Forces has a very clear definition of what a spouse is. Married couples or those in a civil partnership only are considered as spouses – not those living together as man and wife, but if you live together before marrying this may be taken into account too.

And the length of the marriage is 1 of the main factors that the Court takes into account when determining how much of the pension the former spouse is entitled to.

Many soldiers made the mistake of thinking the cut-off point for the end of the marriage is the date of separation, where in fact the date of divorce is the date that matters most. So beware of the financial implications of a divorce after a long separation.

Divorce and Your Military Pension – How Much Is My Spouse Entitled To?

The Veterans UK [previously the Armed Forces Pension Scheme] guidance states that you may be required to share anything between 1% and 100% of your military pension with your former spouse. As there are so many variables, it is essential to seek expert legal advice sooner rather than later.

An Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS) pension is extremely valuable, so think of this in terms of protecting your future income rather than being unfair to your former spouse. A lawyer can advise on other ways to transfer funds to your ex-wife or husband should you wish to do so.

In considering a financial settlement on divorce, there are a number of factors which the court will consider. In particular, you are more likely to keep more if not all of your own pension if your spouse has maintained a career of their own, and in particular if as a result they have their own pension. The court will also bear in mind the separate needs of both you and your spouse and those of any children you may have.

You may be able to keep 100% of your military pension entitlement – but it really does depend on your particular circumstances.

What is your Military Pension Worth? Getting the right valuation is critical

It’s not easy to put an accurate value on any sort of pension, given that most funds will not mature for several decades.

A proper valuation of your a the RAF, or army pension fund is essential – we can arrange a specialist actuary to help with this. You will also need get advice on how the value of the pension will be affected should your ex-spouse choose to take their pension at different ages.

But in dealing with your pension on divorce – you really need a specialist solicitor. Sadly, many solicitors who don’t deal regularly with the military, are simply unaware of the 3 different pension schemes (AFPS 75,  AFPS 05 and AFPS 15) which currently apply to serving and retired members of HM Armed Forces – and as result, sometimes get the wrong valuation. Make sure you don’t fall into that trap.

The importance of appointing specialist solicitors with regard to divorce and your military pension

If you instruct one of the team here at Bonallack & Bishop, you can rest assured that your represented by someone who really understands the military. Over the years, we have helped hundreds of serving and veteran forces personnel like you through their divorce, whether they’re based in the UK or serving overseas. And while many of those have been based on Salisbury Plain and local to our offices, many of our military divorce clients have been based out elsewhere in the UK or posted abroad – and we have communicated with them by phone email and a variety of video calls including Zoom.

What’s more, the four lawyers in our specialist divorce and family law team are led by Dinshaw Printer, a highly experienced family solicitor who in addition to working here at Bonallack & Bishop, also sits regularly in court as a Deputy District Judge handling family law and divorce cases. And in addition to that, Dinshaw grew up in the Army, with regular re-postings as the son of a RAMC Colonel.

Military Divorce, Pensions and Splitting Family Assets

Once the divorce is agreed, the court will look at how to divide up family assets. And depending on how long you have served in HM Armed Forces, one of the largest of which is likely to be your military pension.

When the time comes to address an army pension you will have three ways of dealing with it, which includes the power to order part of the pension to be paid to your ex-spouse-.

Offsetting This is a common option in divorce that involve a variety of financial assets with value beyond just the military pension. To compensate for a spouse’s loss of pension rights, they may get a larger share of the remaining assets in order to leave the military pension untouched. It’s particularly important when going down this route to get a proper an accurate valuation of the future value of the pension as an income.
Pension Sharing Order When a pension sharing order is chosen as the preferred option, part of one partner is army pension is taken and paid into the pension of the other spouse.
Pension Attachment Order In order to reach a monetary conclusion in a single transaction, some may choose to hand responsibility over to a pension administrator. They will then a pay a portion of the pension directly to a spouse in a single lump sum.

Often additional information may be required if the pension is in a payment phase, such will include CETV (Cash Equivalent Transfer Value) or CEB (Cash Equivalent Benefit). If so, you will need to get in contact with your pension scheme administrator, but bear in mind this information isn’t always easy to get hold of.

The difference between the two orders to pay part of your pension to your ex-spouse civil partner has a significant impact on taxation issues; in an Attachment Order you pay all of the tax on your pension, if you choose a Pension Sharing Order, the ex-spouse pays the tax on their proportion.

Speak to one of our specialist military divorce solicitor for advice about which option is best in your case.

Divorce and Your Military Pension – the  Importance of Timing

As discussed above, dragging your heels over divorce could cost in the long run, so you may want to get the ball rolling as soon as you can. The key date is the Immediate Pension Point, which is 16 years of service as an officer, or 22 in other ranks. Once you reach this milestone, the value of your pension increases, so if this date is looming, it is even more important to sort things out quickly.

Is my ex-Spouse still entitled to claim a share of my military pension after divorce?

In short, the answer is yes. Many people mistakenly believe that once they are divorced, the financial ties between them and their spouse are severed. However this is not the case.

The fact that you are divorced does not sever financial ties between you. Your ex husband or wife can still claim against you for a financial settlement. A divorce dissolves your marriage – but does not end the right of one partner to make a financial claim against the other.

And be careful. Your ex doesn’t lose rights to claim against your finances even if you have come to an agreement about those assets in the past – unless you have what is known as a “Consent Order” made by the court. a consent order finalises any financial claim you or your ex-spouse has against the other. In general terms, it provides a permanent once and for all financial settlement – and is often an essential way of safeguarding your military pension.

Is my ex-wife entitled to my military pension if she remarries?

Remarriage can make a major difference. It will often prevent your ex from making a claim against your military  pension or other assets.

I have retired from the military – is my spouse still entitled to a share of my military pension?

The position here is simple – and no different from civilians. Whether you are currently serving, a retired veteran or a member of the Part Time Volunteer Reserve, your military pension is considered a family asset – and therefore needs to be taken into account fully when dividing up family assets. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that your spouse will get some, or indeed any, of your Forces pension. It depends on your individual circumstances and family assets.

Moving On – don’t forget to take financial advice and think about a new will

If you decide to remarry at some point in the future, your financial situation will change. Get the right legal and financial advice to plan for the future now, taking in all eventualities. If you don’t have a financial broker, and would like to be introduced to 1 who works regularly with military personnel, we would be happy to introduce you.

As soon as you are separated , it’s really important that you make a new will. That’s because until your divorce is actually finalised, your spouse will be entitled to everything – should the worst happen.

Do the divorce changes brought in on April 6, 2022 affect my financial settlement or my military pension?

No. These changes, the first changes to divorce law in 50 years, affect only the divorce itself – not financial issues

Going through military divorce? Worried about your pension? Get specialist legal advice

Divorce, pensions and finance are complex issues and no two cases are the same. Don’t struggle through these issues alone.  Seek professional help from one of our family law team who specialise in military divorce who will explain the options and help to safeguard your financial future.

We represent clients throughout England and Wales – and those posted overseas, as well as veterans who have retired abroad. We can either take your instructions by email, phone or Zoom video –  or alternatively can arrange a meeting with you at one of our offices in Hampshire, Wiltshire or Dorset

  • Call  [01722] 422300 or FREEPHONE 0800 1404544 for FREE initial phone advice or
  • E-mail our team using the contact form below for a call back