The pension reforms which came in in April 2016 enabling pensioners to cash in their pensions can have a significant impact on couples who opt to divorce later in life.

Those reaching pension age now can choose to cash in their pension pots and take them as a lump sum although this is subject to income tax on some of the fund.  This does not apply to those in a defined benefit scheme.

This gives more flexibility in how pensions are dealt with. Previously pensioners had been forced to put the fund into an annuity.

Retired couples will usually have to sell their home and downsize when they separate. Age can prevent them from being able to get a new mortgage and the financial challenge of setting up two homes out of one can be huge.

Often there will be an inequality of pension provision too. One spouse may have built up a much larger pot than the other and this currently means that divorcing couples must consider a pension sharing order or an arrangement to offset the pension difference.

Following the pension reforms, divorcing couples will be able to use the pension pot to offset pension differences and fund two separate properties.  They could even look at an option that involves staggered lump sum payments over time could be more beneficial from a tax perspective than drawing it all out at once.

Whatever decisions are made in the light of pension reforms, the first step should always be to seek professional legal advice. Any decision that impacts on retirement income must be evaluated thoroughly to avoid any future hardship. Above all, the potential for miscalculating pension values or overlooking details such as pension benefits makes it vital to choose a solicitor with experience in this area.

Andrew Meehan and Carol Jessop at Harrogate family Law are the only two family lawyers in Harrogate accredited by Resolution as specialists in resolving complex financial issues following divorce.  We have our own in house forensic accountant and a network of trusted experts who work with us on pension and asset valuation.

To discuss your divorce and pension arrangements call Harrogate Family Law on 01423 594680.


Andrew Meehan is individually recommended for family law by both Chambers UK and the Legal 500. He is also a Resolution accredited specialist solicitor for divorce cases involving complex financial and property matters.

This article has been prepared with the aim of providing general information only and does not constitute legal advice in relation to any particular situation. While we aim to ensure that the information is correct at the date on which it is added to the website, the legal position can change frequently, and content will not always be updated following any relevant changes. In addition, everyone’s circumstances are different and this article is provided by way of general information only and must not be relied upon. If you require legal advice on a family law issue, please feel free to contact us by emailing Harrogate Family Law accepts no liability whatsoever in contract, tort or otherwise for any loss or damage caused by or arising directly or indirectly in connection with any use or reliance on the contents of any part of our website, except to the extent that such liability cannot be excluded by law.