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Minister of State (Department for Work and Pensions) Steve Webb, had a few things to say about pensions recently. Some of them were aimed at divorce lawyers.
The minister was speaking in February on the day of the conference of the Resolution Foundation, the think-tank aimed at raising British living standards. According to reports, Mr Webb said divorce lawyers should be ‘encouraged to always make sure this is properly part of the negotiations and is on the table’. He then added, 'In theory we have pension sharing on divorce and pension splitting but the reality is that it doesn’t work terribly well. Your average divorce lawyer is focused on the house and, if you have still got kids, are you really going to haggle hard over a share of the pension?’.
Quite why Mr Webb decided to pillory divorce lawyers is not entirely clear. Was this just usual lawyer bashing by a politician or did it have any justification?
Certainly the picture is a complex one. Scottish Widows publishes an annual Women and Pensions Report. Its 2014 publication found that women typically save £100 a month for retirement, around 40% less than men, a gap that is widening. Among divorced women, 84% either said pensions weren’t discussed, or that they couldn’t remember them being discussed, as part of any settlement. This is apparently despite the fact that more women than men think they would be entitled to a share of their partner’s pension if they were to split up.
Hilary Woodward and Mark Sefton at Cardiff Law School recently made the first detailed study into pension sharing on divorce since its introduction in 200
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