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Pension attachment orders

AuthorsRichard Rigg

4 min read

Pension attachment orders

Pensions are often one of the most valuable assets in the matrimonial pot, and it is essential that expert advice is obtained to ensure that any pension provision is dealt with fairly.

In the vast majority of cases, the most effective way to deal with pensions on divorce is by way of a pension sharing order, whereby the agreed share of one parties’ pension will be carved out and transferred to the other spouse. They are then in complete control as to what they do with these funds and when and how they decide to draw them in retirement (subject to the rules of that particular pension scheme).

Pension sharing was however only introduced on 1 December 2000 and before that a pension attachment order (also known as a pension earmarking order) was the only real alternative.

Whilst pension attachment orders are considerably less common nowadays following the advent of pension sharing, there are still situations where a pension attachment order may be preferred. For example, a pension sharing order is only available on divorce and cannot be used for parties opting for a judicial separation.

What is a pension attachment order?

A pension attachment order is a form of lump sum and periodical payment (maintenance) requiring the pension provider to pay a proportion of a pension to the other party. It effectively means that either part of all of a parties’ pension benefits are redirected to their former spouse or civil partner at the time the pension comes into payment on retirement. It does not provide a clean break between the parties as there is an ongoing link with the ex-spouse or civil partner.

How do pension attachment orders work?

Under a pension attachment order, the family court will make an order stating that part, or all, of the parties’ pension benefits must be paid to their ex-spouse or civil partner when they become payable. The pension still belongs to the pension scheme member however, and it is important to note that the income will be taxed as though it is being paid to the member in full.

The court can order that the ex-partner receives one, or a combination, of the following benefits:

What are the advantages of a pension attachment order?

What are the disadvantages of a pension attachment order?

Given the extensive issues and uncertainties around pension attachment orders, it is of no surprise that the remedy of a pension sharing order was introduced and favoured by most. If you are already subject to a pension attachment order however, or have general queries regarding pensions on divorce, you should not hesitate to contact Richard Rigg or a member of our family team.