Business Personal Finance

Sunday 20 October 2019

Your Questions: Would it be wise to give up my divorce claim on my husband's pension?


Picture posed
Picture posed
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Question: After 24 years of marriage, I decided to separate from my husband and we are now trying to come to an agreement on the equitable division of assets. We have two adult children who are still living at home. I would like to stay in the house and my husband, who is a director of a successful company, said that I can have three-quarters of the house rather than half, so long as I give up any claim on his pension. I am 52. I can afford the mortgage on the remaining quarter as I now have a part-time job, but I wonder if this is a good deal?

Answer: The most heated debates in separations tend to be over who gets the family home or how it is split. And while this might appear to be most people's greatest asset, many people forget or neglect to secure an adequate share of the retirement pot.

Frequently, that pot is in the name of just one spouse and more often than not it is the husband that has ownership.

The stats show that, due to various reasons (fragmented career path, time out of work due to family considerations, lower pay in many cases), many women tend to have inadequate pension participation and contribution rates, according to CEO of the Irish Association of Pension Funds Jerry Moriarty.

Under the Family Law Act 1995, the Family Law (Divorce) Act 1996 and the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010, a court now has the power to treat a pension as an asset of the separating couple/civil partners and order that it be divided into whatever shares it considers appropriate.

Such an order is known as a pension adjustment order (PAO). For example, if one spouse has a substantial pension and the other spouse who worked in the home has no pension, the court can order that part of the spouse's pension be paid to the other spouse or to a dependent child.

The court can also order that part of the pension fund is split and placed into another pension fund in the name of the other spouse/civil partner.

PAOs are typically made in just 10pc to 20pc of divorce cases in Ireland, even though over half of couples getting divorced have at least one pension.

This low figure suggests that many divorcing people may not have properly considered the pension assets.

Based on the description of your husband's job, it is quite likely that his pension may be worth as much or more than your house, the best advice is to get an independent valuation of the pension before you decide whether the deal is good or not.

Question:  My husband and I currently have what I think is termed 'joint' mortgage protection on our home and I know that if one of us were to pass away the other would be paid out from the policy. But my brother said they have just taken out a 'dual' policy which he said pays out twice. He was sketchy on the details but he said they cost the same and I should look into it. Could you give me any further details?

Answer: A dual policy offers policyholders more financial protection at pretty much the same cost.

Dual cover is particularly suitable where there might be children or dependants involved, according to the chief operating officer of Sheahan Financial, Joey Sheahan.

In the unfortunate circumstance that you were both to pass away it will pay out on two separate occasions - the mortgage will be paid in the first instance, with a lump sum paid to dependants in the second.

It is not an option with all insurers so you need to do some homework, or get a broker to do the leg work for you.

Your brother is correct, as the price difference between the two is usually quite small, so it is worth looking into.

Question: Our house was burgled and an engagement ring belonged to my deceased mother was taken. I am heartbroken, but relieved that the thieves didn't find another jewellery box with a few more pieces that had belonged to my mum. We are about to put through a claim for the stolen items, but I am concerned about my mum's ring. I obviously don't have a proof of purchase for this. Will the insurer really just take my word for it?

Answer: Deidre McCarthy of says she has come across instances like this before. In one particular case a woman had inherited a necklace from her mother thus didn't have a proof of purchase or a valuation.

She was able to source a photograph of the lady's mother wearing the chain and on the back of this it was possible to value the item and the insurers agreed to pay the claim.

This might be your only recourse in this instance.

When it comes to separation, many people forget or neglect to secure an adequate share of the retirement pot, despite its value

A dual-mortgage protection policy offers policyholders more financial protection at pretty much the same cost as a joint policy

Irish Independent

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