It is important that the timing of applying for the Decree Absolute is done correctly when there is to be a Pension Sharing Order (PSO).

The pension sharing order does not become effective until 28 days after issue by the court due to the appeal period, or if later the date of the Decree Absolute.

If the Decree Absolute is applied for at the same time as the PSO is issued, which appears to be a common practise, there is a risk of the ex spouse losing substantial benefits in event of the member dying during this 28 day period. It happens; I remember pointing this out to a solicitor at a training course who went very pale as she knew that the former husband was in a hospice.

The problem is that if the member, usually the husband, dies before the end of the 28 day period then the PSO will lapse, but because the Decree Absolute has been granted then the wife is no longer the legal spouse so would not now be eligible for the spouse’s pension from the pension scheme, if available.

I would therefore suggest that it would be best practise for the application for the Decree Absolute to be delayed until the Pension Sharing Order’s 28 day appeal period as expired, so that in the unfortunate event of the member’s early death that the spousal benefits are preserved.

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