With high levels of stress, police divorce rates are more than double the national average. We understand that policing is a consuming profession - it creates unique pressures. Shift rotations, role conflicts, physical danger, transfers and the need to control emotions can have a huge impact on relationships. If a police officer is exposed to additional stress at home, matters can deteriorate quickly.
We understand a police officer's unique needs: including the desire to protect your pension during a divorce or separation. Our specialist team keep on top of any new pension regulations and changes in matters such as pay and rent allowance, to ensure you obtain the best advice possible.
At The Family Law Co. by Hartnell Chanot & Partners we provide discounted rates, out of hours appointments and specialist legal advice on pension calculations, negotiating settlement arrangements and the full range of family law services to serving police officers.
Although police pensions are treated like any other asset of the marriage during a police divorce, they are not a capital asset, a pension is an income stream and will always remain as such.
There are three main ways in which your police pension in divorce can be dealt with:
1. Police Pension Offsetting
This is where we would look at compensating one party for the loss of interest in their spouse's pension by giving that person a greater share of the other available assets (for example the home). This will depend upon the value of your police pension and the value of the other assets. In relation to police pensions, this is likely to mean that the value given to the pension by the police pension administrators (CETV) is likely to be challenged by the spouse of the police officer. This is because it is an unfunded scheme which means that if a person were to buy a similar pension with the additional benefits received by a police officer; it would cost more money and would be valued higher. A revaluation of the pension is likely to increase the value of the pension and would lead to a police officer receiving less of the other available assets. However if the police officer wanted to keep his/her entire pension then this is usually the best option.
2. Police Pension Sharing
This is where one part of the police officer’s pension is taken and paid into a pension which is set up within the scheme for their spouse. After the pension sharing order is implemented, any further contributions made by the police officer will only go towards their own pension, not their spouses. A police officer therefore has the ability to build his / her pension back up before retirement. However the closer the police officer is to retirement the less likely that will be. If the pension is in payment when a pension sharing order is made there are two consequences, the retired police officer receiving the pension will immediately lose a proportion of his / her income as the pension is split. His / her income will now come from the remaining proportion of his / her pension. His / her spouse however, will not receive that income until he / she reaches retirement age. In those circumstances, other options will need to be considered. Those options could include a pension attachment order, or a deferral of the pension sharing order being made.
3. Pension Attachment Orders
A pension attachment order is where an order is made that once the pension is in payment, the spouse of the police officer receives a proportion of the income and or lump sum. They receive this direct from the pension administrators. This order can be useful if a pension is already in payment as it means the spouse receives the money immediately rather than waiting until he / she is 60 or 65.
It is also advantageous to the police officer, as a pension attachment order would normally stop on a spouse's remarriage. However as the pension is split at the date of payment, any contributions made by the police officer post-divorce, will also increase the amount of money that his / her spouse receives. This option is used less frequently but can be the most suitable order in some circumstances.
Please Note: As from April 09 if the pension is in payment and a Pension Sharing Order is made, the pension trustee now has the option (not mandatory) of making payments immediately to the spouse rather than the member losing his /her income now and the spouse not gaining any income now - though individual schemes do have to change their rules to allow early payment. Please contact us and we can advise you further as to whether your scheme has changed their rules to allow this. New regulations were introduced in 2010 which will restrict the payment to a minimum age.
What is the Best Option for your Police Pension?
There are many advantages / disadvantages of each option, and the option which is most suitable to an individual police officer will depend on their circumstances and the other assets which may be in dispute. We are however able to advise on all the options that a police officer may face in relation to their pension.
What Information do we Need to Advise you About Your Police Pension?
You will need to supply the following information:
- Cash Equivalent Transfer value (CEVT) or Cash Equivalent Benefit (CEB) if the pension is already in payment. You need to contact the administrator of the scheme and request this as soon as possible as it is likely to take the administrator some time to provide this information, you should not be charged for requesting this information.
- The date you joined the pension scheme, as this will tell us which police pension you have. If you have changed between the pensions schemes, you will need to let us know this.
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