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Divorcing servicepeople losing out over poor pension advice

Jackie Meredith, ORJ’s most experienced family law expert, explains why military personnel are losing out when they divorce as many lawyers do not properly understand the unique nature of Armed Forces pensions.

It is so, so important that servicepeople seek specialist advice when they divorce to safeguard their most valuable asset – their pension.

I have helped numerous servicepeople who were badly advised by other lawyers, in some cases losing hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Armed Forces pensions schemes are amongst the most generous and valuable in the UK, reflecting the years of sacrifice and service to the country.

But they are very different to a normal workplace pension as they include additional benefits, making them notoriously difficult to value for divorce purposes.

I have more than 20 years of legal experience and, given ORJ’s proximity to RAF Cosford and MoD bases in Telford and Stafford, have worked with many servicemen and servicewomen. It’s clear to me that some family lawyers don’t properly understand the difference between a military pension and a workplace pension.

Military pensions are extremely complicated and intricate and need to be dealt with very carefully during divorce. Just like in the civilian world, military pensions are considered a family asset and need to be divided – but it must be done correctly and fairly or servicepeople can be left shortchanged.

In a divorce involving civilians, any pensions are quite easily and accurately valued and shared as deemed fit.

Servicepeople do not pay into their pension – the value depends on various factors for example the scheme or schemes involved, if there has been any crossover between schemes, the person’s rank, length of service and when they plan on leaving service.

There can also be additional pension elements if someone has been forced to retire because of ill health or has been injured in service.

I recently advised a client who had divorced and gone through another solicitors to obtain a Pension Sharing Order.  The other party was a service member. We were horrified by what we saw, which left the woman terribly disadvantaged. None of these unique attributes had been considered when the Pension Sharing Order was agreed. That client now has a negligence claim under way.

Too many servicepeople are getting caught out using divorce lawyers who don’t properly understand the implications when military pensions are not correctly and carefully considered by a reputable Pensions Actuary experienced in dealing with this type of pension and producing calculations for divorce purposes, or alternatively attempting to represent themselves to save money in the financial aspect of their divorce.

My advice would be to seek the advice of an experienced lawyer at the earliest opportunity.

To speak to Jackie for expert advice, call 01785 223440.