Expat Divorce and English pensions

The English Court will not automatically enforce orders made by foreign courts on divorce in relation to English pensions. It is, therefore, important to take advice from an international family law expert before a final order is made in a foreign jurisdiction.

Ordinarily, the English Court can only make an order in respect of English pensions if, after a foreign divorce, one of the parties is either habitually resident or domiciled in England and Wales at the time of the English application. Domicile is not the same as nationality, and someone may have retained the latter but not the former. This is particularly important where only one of the parties has a UK connection and they are the party with the English pension as that party could argue they are not domiciled in England to prevent enforcement.

If the order in respect of the English pension is made somewhere else in the British Isles on divorce (for example, Scotland, Jersey, Guernsey or Isle of Man) that order cannot be enforced in England.

If you are a beneficiary of a foreign order in relation to English pensions, you should not remarry before enforcing the order in England as you cannot apply to the English Court if you have re-married.

Other practicalities:

  • Think about the tax implications of receiving an English pension if you are non UK resident.
  • The pension company may require an English address before you transfer your pension to them or they accept you as a member of their scheme. There are potential ways around this, including transferring the pension to a non UK pension, but these issues should be explored before seeking a final order in a foreign jurisdiction.
  • What are the costs of the Pension Sharing Order?
  • When can you take the pension? Different scheme rules mean this could vary between 50 and 65.
  • A 50% share of the pension fund does not necessarily equate to a 50% share of the income.

If it is not possible or practical to receive a share of your ex-spouse’s pension, then consideration should be given to obtaining an alternative order in the foreign jurisdiction. All of this is easy to do if it is addressed before a final order is made; otherwise, in some cases, you may be left with no remedy at all.

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