'Cheated' Ex-Wives Divorce Should Be Fairer Now New Laws Allow Individual Pension Funds to Be Split. So Why Are Thousands of Financial Settlements Still Ending in Tears for Women Who Have Won a Share of Their Husband's Assets?

By Thornhill, Jo | The Mail on Sunday (London, England), August 31, 2003 | Go to article overview

'Cheated' Ex-Wives Divorce Should Be Fairer Now New Laws Allow Individual Pension Funds to Be Split. So Why Are Thousands of Financial Settlements Still Ending in Tears for Women Who Have Won a Share of Their Husband's Assets?


Thornhill, Jo, The Mail on Sunday (London, England)


Byline: JO THORNHILL

THOUSANDS of women going through the anguish of divorce are not getting their share of the household wealth. The reason - solicitors and financial advisers are letting them down.

In most cases, women are shortchanged because pension savings, often a couple's biggest asset after the house, are not valued properly.

Figures published by the Government last week show divorces soared to almost 150,000 last year, 7,000 more than in 2000. And it is usually women who lose out when a marriage breaks down because their pension savings are generally smaller.

Despite recent legislation aimed at giving divorcing women a fair share of a husband's pension, it is still overlooked in many cases. And even if pensions are taken into account, they are often undervalued.

Harry Smith, director at the Perth office of Collins Actuaries, part of Hazell Carr Collins, says that women divorcing husbands with police, fire service or armed forces pensions are particularly at risk because these funds are often extremely generous and difficult to value.

Smith gives the example of a police officer aged 44 at the time of divorce who has been in service since the age of 20 and earns [pounds sterling]30,000.

According to standard valuations used by pension trustees, it would require a fund worth [pounds sterling]180,000 if he left the force immediately and did not take his pension until he reached 60.

Smith argues that this method of calculation undervalues pension rights considerably because it ignores the fact that policemen with 25 years' service can retire at 50 with a full, inflationlinked pension. …

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