Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Guide to Pension Sharing Orders

Like many people, you may be wondering ‘What is a Pension Sharing Order?’ A pension sharing order is made through the courts after a divorce or separation. Essentially, it is the process by which part or all of a pension is allocated to the pension holder’s former partner, who will then hold these benefits in their own right. 

A pension can be one of your most important assets, which is why it’s so important that a pension sharing order is implemented correctly. 

Implementing a Pension Sharing Scheme

To obtain a pension sharing order you will need to employ the services of an expert financial advisor, who will be qualified to advise you on the most suitable plan for dividing and re-investing pension benefits. All pension orders must go through the courts, who will determine exactly what proportion of a person’s pension must be allocated to their former partner.

A pension sharing order must be implemented within four months of the date when the pension scheme receives all of the pertinent paperwork. Each part of the scheme will have different requirements as to what documentation is needed so all paperwork must be delivered and processed on time to prevent delays in the pension sharing order.

The implementation of a pension sharing order is also dependent upon whether an internal or external transfer method is used by your pension scheme, which you should check before negotiations begin. 

Enforcing a Pension Sharing Order

To ensure that a pension sharing order is successfully enforced, it’s important that all parties go into the courts having asked a few important questions:
Whether or not the non-member can remain in the scheme.
Whether the pension sharing order recipient will need to wait until their normal retirement date, if the pension scheme in question allows for early retirement.
What charges will be levied by trustees, and if these need to be paid up front.
Whether or not your pension sharing order will accrue interest, either directly or through a qualifying agreement.
If internal documents need to be signed before a pension sharing order can be implemented, and the best way to go about gaining the signatures of both parties. 

The Advantages of a Pension Sharing Order

One of the reasons that so many people choose a pension sharing order is that it allows for both parties to make a ‘clean break’. Pension assets are split according to a percentage decided on by the courts, and a pension sharing order is managed from start to finish by court officials and an official pension sharing order advisor. 

Alternatives to Pension Sharing

There are several alternatives to a pension sharing order which may be used to divide pension assets in the event of a divorce or separation. Offsetting and earmarking are two of the other ways in which separating couples may decide to divide pension assets, however both are dependent upon certain other factors, such as the amount of available assets and the amicability of the separation.

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