You will have seen from my earlier blogs that I specialise in dealing with armed forces pensions on divorce. A large proportion of my clients are either serving members of the armed forces, former members of the armed forces or a spouse of a serving or former member of the armed forces.
A lot of people approach me with the question:
How do I claim a share of my ex’s armed forces pension now that I am divorced/ing?
Unfortunately, you cannot just approach Veterans UK and explain how long you were married and ask them to pay you a proportion of your ex’s pension. Veterans UK will only pay the pension payments to the person who has served in the armed forces unless there is a court order telling them to pay the pension to the ex-spouse.
You also cannot just apply to the court for an order setting out how much of the pension the ex-partner is to receive. Divorce proceedings need to be started if they have not already begun. The divorce then enables you to make an application to the court for an order setting out the division of the financial assets. Ideally, the application to the court will be by consent which means that you and your ex have agreed what is to happen to the assets and are submitting an agreed order drafted by solicitors.
The court does not have the power to deal with just one asset on a divorce, all the financial assets need to be dealt with in the order. This means that if there is any capital or a house then it needs to be decided what is to happen to those assets. It also means that you have to set out what spousal maintenance is to be paid if any. As part of that order, you will then set out what is to happen to the pension.
Dividing the Pension
There is no set formula as to how the pension is to be divided. The longer a couple have been married the more likely it is that the pension will be divided equally. For much shorter length marriages, it is possible that the pension may not be divided. Some couples will try to apportion the pension and share the pension which was built during the marriage only. Due to the unusual structure of armed forces pensions and because many serving members are members of more than one armed forces pension scheme we will often appoint an actuary to report on the pension and how to divide the pension. The role of an actuary requires its own blog but your solicitor should help you with working out what questions you want the actuary to answer. A separate blog is also required as to what type of order may be made over the pension as there are different options.
Once you have an order confirming the division of all the financial assets including the pensions then that order is sent to Veterans UK. A fee will usually have to be paid (the order will set out how that fee is to be shared) and then Veterans UK will change the way the pension is paid and give you your share of your ex’s pension.
Drawing the Pension
A non-serving member will not be able to draw on the pension which is transferred to them under a pension sharing order until they reach retirement age. A serving member who has served the required number of years can draw upon their share of the pension before retirement age.
If you’re needing an answer to the original question of how can you claim a share of your ex’s armed forces pension, I can guide you through this process. Please contact me to arrange a meeting to look at what you are likely to be entitled to and then work out the best option to move matters forward.