Divorce LifeLine suggests that since pension sharing was introduced in December 2000, around 750,000 people, in half the divorces across the country, could be entitled to claim thousands of pounds from their solicitors where their former spouse’s pension was undervalued.
The company’s founding partner Tony Derbyshire said that in 96% of the 171 divorce settlements it had looked at, solicitors had not sought expert advice on the pension value. ‘It is easy to undervalue the pension without the expert advice of an actuary or independent financial adviser, and it seems most divorce lawyers have failed to seek this advice,’ he said.
But James Copson, partner at London firm Withers, said courts are reluctant to grant permission for expert evidence in pensions cases to obtain a valuation.
‘Courts will only allow such evidence if there is a big pension or if it forms a large proportion of the resources. That’s the fundamental problem,’ he said.
Copson said that in the ‘most gross cases’, it might be right to pursue the solicitor, but he added: ‘It’s a difficult area because solicitors are not experts, and experts come at a cost, which some clients are not willing to pay.’
Kate Hamilton, partner at London firm Russell Cooke, said that any post-divorce reviews of settlements should take into account the plethora of considerations that lie behind them and not treat them as straightforward accounting exercises.