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Pensions on divorce: where now, what next?

Date:23 MAY 2021
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Jennifer Buckley and Debora Price, University of Manchester

Keywords: pensions – divorce – financial remedies – matrimonial finance – gender – inequality 

It is 20 years since the 1999 Welfare Reform and Pensions Act introduced pension sharing on divorce in England and Wales. In this article, we consider three questions. First, we review what has happened in pension outcomes for divorced men and women since the Act came into force.  We next turn to statistical analysis of the Wealth and Assets Survey to consider current pension accumulation among couples, what scope there might be for pension sharing in the event of divorce, and what the current situation looks like for divorced men and women. Third, we ask what the future might hold.

Our analysis reveals that very widespread disparities persist between men’s and women’s accumulated pension wealth throughout the life course, and these disparities exist within couples, at all ages, and at all points on the income and pension wealth distributions. For many couples, there is a high probability that their pension wealth exceeds their property wealth. 

While we show that there is considerable potential for pension sharing among currently married people, there remains much we do not know about these issues. We close with a discussion of the substantial research agenda needed to provide a clear evidence base for ongoing reform. 


This article was published in Child and Family Law Quarterly in Issue 1, Vol 33, Year 2021. The final published version of this article will be published and made publicly available here 24 months after its publication date, under a CC-BY-NC licence.

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