Pensions adviser Richard Jacobs has accused the Pensions Ombudsman of having a “complete lack of understanding” of the rules governing pensionsharing.
In a letter to the ombudsman, Richard Jacobs Pension and Trustee Services managing director Jacobs says it was wrong to conclude in a recent decision that documents formally disclosed in court cannot be relied upon by a spouse.
Jacobs says that under disclosure of information regulations, members of pension schemes must disclose their pension credit to the court in the case of a divorce. The non-member spouse only has access to the disclosed information and is unable to seek clarification directly from the pension scheme.
Jacobs says one of his clients relied on a written statement from her husband’s pension scheme, disclosed in court, stating that her half of the pension credit could remain in the finalsalary scheme. But the pension scheme administrator later claimed that statement was made in error and that her share would not be kept in the scheme. The ombudsman ruled that the spouse could not rely on the statement because she is not the scheme member and therefore it was not addressed to her.
In the letter, Jacobs says: “I must bring to your attention what I feel to be a complete lack of understanding by your office of the rules, regulation and legislation concerning pension sharing. I am required to provide advice, often to both parties, as to how pensions can be shared.
“My grave concern is that your office is effectively stating that a spouse cannot rely on documents disclosed to a court. If this is correct, no one will be able to advise the spouse of a pension scheme member how to deal with the pension share until after the pension share has been agreed. This has to be nonsense.”
The Pensions Ombudsman refused to comment.