Divorcees sharing pension funds as house prices fall

Falling house prices mean many divorcing couples have to find imaginative new ways to reach a financial settlement.

A report by Sweet and Maxwell, the legal publishers, say there’s been an 11% increase over the last year in the number of couples sharing pension funds when they separate.

There are thought to be several reasons for the increase. The recession has reduced many people’s incomes and the value of assets such as stocks and shares.

Property values have also fallen dramatically and the slump in the housing market means that homes can be difficult to sell. Money held in other high value assets such as businesses can also be difficult to realise as the economic downturn continues.

This can cause problems for couples who want to split their assets to achieve a clean break.

It means that pensions are sometimes a couple’s most valuable asset. This is particularly so now that divorce among the over-60s – the group with the highest value pension funds – is at record levels.

The number of divorces among couples in this age group rose by 4.2% between 2007 and 2009 – the latest period for which figures are available.

This has led to more couples agreeing to split the pension fund of the principal earner.