Posted March 14th, 2013
Cuts to the legal aid budget that come in next month are going to leave many vulnerable families deprived of vital services that only professionals can supply.
I can’t really understand where the government is coming from on this one. Often when cuts are imposed there will be some alternative offered. Yet in this instance the legislation comes in and will leave many people in difficult situations with nowhere to turn; and let’s not forget that there will obviously be a lot of children caught in the midst of all this. So much for the welfare of the child is paramount.
One reputable firm of solicitors – Stephensons, the largest family law team in the North West – are making provisions to help those that are in a vulnerable position. The help on offer to those families whether they may be divorcing, parents in adoption cases or parents trying to resolve contact disputes will include a fixed fee service and a flexible ‘pay as you go’ service. Both services will ensure that, at the very least those facing having to pay for their legal repressentation will know where they stand from a cost perspective.
I also offer a free 30 minute consultation and have a lot of experience in helping people work through their finances on divorce whether that is helping you get a fair settlement or implementing a pension sharing order. If you feel that you may be affected by the changes in legal aid then why not get in touch for a free 30 minute, no obligation consultation.
Posted March 13th, 2013
Technically speaking the cash equivalent transfer value (CETV) represents the expected cost of providing the member’s benefits within the scheme.
In divorce settlements, thought needs to be given as to whether the CETV is the most appropriate method of valuing the overall pension benefits. Consideration needs to be given as to whether the CETV accurately reflects the benefits on offer and if certain benefits are not counted within the CETV, what should be done about it.
In the case of money purchase benefits, this is generally straightforward – it is the accumulated contributions made by and on behalf of the member together with investment returns. (There can be exceptions).
But with defined benefits (like final salary), the CETV is a value determined on actuarial principles, which requires assumptions to be made about the future course of events affecting the scheme and the member’s benefits.
So when negotiating settlements it should be noted that it is not that the CETV has been inaccurately valued but that it may not be the most suitable valuation to use for divorce purposes.
Look at the definition again and note that it states “the expected cost of providing the member’s benefits” The CETV may therefore be valuing the member’s benefits but not the spouse’s. (Spouse’s pensions can often be very valuable). Trustees will also provide a CETV based on the normal retirement date of the scheme, even where it is likely that the member will retire early.
Of course, agreeing on a higher valuation does not mean that there are extra funds available as the CETV is the only value the scheme will place on the pension. However, when completing a pension sharing order it is possible to take a higher pension share (based on the higher valuation agreed) to compensate.
So what does this all cost and surely every actuary/pension expert would take all this in to account? Firstly, for no more than a few hundred pounds a second opinion valuation can be obtained. Secondly, unfortunately not and many reports I see only work of CETVs thus potentially undervaluing the pension assets at the most crucial stage!
My approach is to work hand in hand with an actuary to ensure that you get the best result. It should be noted that on several occasions we have managed to increase the valuation considerably (doubled it one case) resulting in a significant pension sharing increase for our client.
So before proceeding any further why not allow me to review the pension CETVs (for free) and see if we can improve the settlement today.
Posted March 1st, 2013
You can’t get divorced unless you get married. Aside from stating the obvious, I’m underlining the point that these days marriage seems little more than a precursor to divorce. It was only within the last week that I heard an acquaintance remark about how much more fun his divorce is compared to his marriage.
Granted, there is maybe a little relief when it all becomes absolute, but this rising trend that divorce is the main course after the entre of marriage is eroding at society. That sounds sweeping, but marriage just doesn’t seem to mean what it used to.
For better or worse is a redundant term as couples seem to run to divorce solicitors at the merest hint that they have actually married another human being just as flawed as they are. For better or slightly worse than better may be more apt.
When nothing but divorce will do though and there is no salvaging the wreckage of supposed wedded harmony, the last thing you need on top of the stress are spiralling costs and poor quality representation:
BBC News – Rising costs add to divorce woe, says Legal Ombudsman
Marriage should be more – much more than an exercise in saving for divorce. Divorce costs are starting to rival what you’ll spend on a wedding day; and it looks like there are some unscrupulous solicitors looking to capitalise on clients engaged in an acrimonious divorce. That’s abuse, whichever way you cut it up. That is praying on the vulnerable and taking advantage of their state of mind.
A common and highly justifiable complaint by clients and consumers in the financial services industry is that charges are not transparent and clear. The Retail Distribution Review was set up to combat that issue (although it’s clear that there are many providers and platforms that are quite happy to work around that and leave clients still scratching their head when it comes to exactly what they are paying!) and I would say it’s time that something similar was brought in to weed out the more unscrupulous solicitors that just want your money.
If you’re not happy with your legal representation and feel they are not acting in your best interests, then please get in touch by phone on 01204 663904 or by email – email@example.com. I can recommend excellent law firms that will act with your best interests at heart.
Image Credit: Flickr.com/stan
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Posted November 27th, 2012
We all know, or know of people that have managed to get married abroad. It probably doesn’t work out much more expensive than a lavish ceremony on these shores. Wouldn’t it be curious to find an agency set up to help you get divorced abroad?
“They got divorced? When did that happen?”
“Yeah they’ve been divorced a couple of months now, they got divorced in the Seychelles!”
“Pffft…..it’s alright for some, me and the ex had to make to do with a divorce in Wolverhampton!”
In reality though, the only money held abroad in divorces tends to be offshore bank accounts that Mr. Taxman doesn’t know anything about……….yet!
That is, until a disgruntled soon to be ex-partner tells him about it, and handsomely rewarded they will be for it as well. Of course, marriage, or the dissolution thereof, doesn’t have any relevancy when it is an ex business partner blowing the whistle. However, according to HMRC, there are significant number of tip offs are coming from ex partners.
As the waters separating the terms “evasion” and “avoidance” get ever muddier (avoision if you will) it’s a made up word intended to nod at the notion that evasion and avoidance are becoming entwined but I’ll change it to aversion if you think it would make more sense, let’s not debate here on the rights, wrongs or other loopholes surrounding the whole Tax debate currently.
Fact is, it’s more incumbent on you to be up front. Hiding money from the tax man is one thing – and it can land you in prison. Hiding money that is due to a disgruntled ex is positively like dicing with death!
Be up front, and then you might avoid finding yourself being upfront in front of a Judge.
image credit: flickr.com/banjo_d
Posted September 17th, 2012
The role of solicitors and mediators during divorce is well documented and shouldn’t be taken lightly or underestimated as many self representing clients find out to their cost.
However, aside from wrangling over custody arrangements, would you leave it to either professional party to value your house during a split of assets?
No? So why is it that little or no heed is often taken in divorce proceedings with regards to the pensions?
As I stated in the above article, there are many solicitors that I work with that do have the necessary skill set to enable you to achieve a fair outcome, often calling in the necessary professionals to assist with their advice.
I have recently been contacted by two claim companies and an independent solicitor looking at past settlements and wanting referrals from me for potential claims they can investigate. They are investigating whether the true value of the pensions has been ignored, overlooked or misunderstood as part of the overall settlement.
This is no coincidence and perhaps a sign of the times but 12 years after the legislation was passed bringing pension sharing into force I am still seeing big mistakes being made.
To avoid having to go through this with your pension sharing case then please get in touch now on 01204 663904.
Posted August 25th, 2012
Question: My husband is in receipt of a war disability pension. Is it possible to have a pension order placed against it?
Answer : Unfortunately you are not able to have a pension sharing order or an attachment order applied against the War Disability Pension. However, there will be main army pension benefits payable and it is possible to have a pension sharing order placed against these benefits. Given the extra income payable via the war disability pension, then with sensible discussion would it be possible to increase the pension sharing order under the main army scheme benefits.
In addition I see no reason why this would not count towards maintenance and a periodic payments order may be made.
Posted August 24th, 2012
My attention was drawn to an interesting Twitter debate recently with regard to 0% pension sharing orders. The premise being that this prevents any further comeback on maintenance variation by way of pension income.
My concern here is that this is heresay, however, it is possible for a 1% pension sharing order to be completed which would dispel any future claim on the pension. It should be noted that you cannot have a pension sharing order on a pension that already has a pension sharing order on it.
Practically though, how would a 1% transfer value work, and it also should be noted that the costs might outweigh any benefits. However, it could be argued that this is a reasonably innovative way of dealing with pension sharing.
Posted August 22nd, 2012
An interesting development with Divorce Lifeline – www.divorcelifeline.co.uk.
It is interesting to note some of the claims being made by the company in relation to pensions and also their credentials to be in this market in the first place.
However, there is a growing trend towards looking at the settlements that clients are getting and it is in the divorce solicitors best interests to look at how a pension settlement is arrived at.
As a Resolution Accredited Independent Financial Adviser, I do see many mistakes made and we are here to help.