Divorce rates where one partner is a police officer are double the national average, perhaps due to the intensely stressful requirements of the job. Diane Matthews discusses the main issues.

The risks and demands of police work often take a toll on relationships and result in divorce or separation.

When this happens, most officers are keen to safeguard their police pension, which is usually a significant asset. So, it’s crucial to work with legal advisers with specialist knowledge of latest developments and changes to police pension regulations.

The advantages of pension sharing

One of the most widely used resolutions is police pension sharing, which involves a proportion of the officer’s pension being paid into a totally separate fund for their former spouse.

Pension contributions received by the officer after the sharing arrangement has been finalised are for their benefit only, which can enable them to rebuild their pension ahead of retirement.

The pros and cons of an attachment order

Another option is an attachment order. Here the police pension provider may be directed to attach any pension, at the time these benefits become due, for payment to the non-member spouse. The payment can be for periodical payments which provides a regular form of income payable to the non-member spouse, however, the payments would end if the non-member spouse were to remarry.

Alternatively, the non-member spouse can receive a one-off lump sum payment directly from the police pension provider, however this type of lump sum is only payable when the former police officer is able to draw down benefits. Unlike pension sharing, a separate fund is not created – it is a simple redirection of benefits from an existing scheme.

Why offsetting should be approached with caution

A less common solution is police pension offsetting, although this is technically complex and should be treated with caution.

It involves the police officer retaining all the pension benefits, but parting with a greater share of other assets as compensation – for example the family home.

The amount involved hinges on what the pension is worth in relation to other assets. Where officers want to keep the whole pension to themselves, this is sometimes an option worth exploring.

The importance of using a legal expert to protect your interests

Deciding which option is best for you is down to a number of factors, such as your present financial situation and the ‘Cash Equivalent Transfer Vale’ or ‘Cash Equivalent Benefit’ of the pension, which the scheme administrator can provide.

This information, together with the date you joined the pension scheme, allows a specialist legal adviser to identify the most effective way of handling your pension as part of a divorce settlement.

For more information on the effects of divorce on police pensions, contact Diane Matthews on 01254 272640 or email her at diane.matthews@whnsolicitors.co.uk