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Family Law Guidelines and Allocation of Pension

Family law guidelines

Family law legislation makes provision for the court to grant certain orders, including Pension Adjustment Orders (PAOs), to ensure that adequate and reasonable financial provision can be made for a spouse, civil partner, qualified cohabitant or dependent child in the context of judicial separation, divorce, dissolution of civil partnership or redress in respect of qualified cohabitants.

Under family law legislation, responsibility for compliance with the legislation, in so far as it relates to the administration of public service pension schemes, falls on the trustees of the relevant scheme. In the public service, unless the scheme was established under a Deed of Trust (which would name the trustees), the trustees are considered to be the staff/body that administers the pension scheme.

The ‘Family Law Guidelines’ and associated Letter to HR managers dated 2 February 2021, relating to the implementation of Pension Adjustment Orders in public service pension schemes, aim to assist trustees of those schemes in the administration and implementation of PAOs in respect of the benefits payable under their schemes. They are not intended to be a legal interpretation of the legislation and should be read in conjunction with the relevant legislation and the Pension Authority’s Family Law Guidance Notes. Where there is any doubt in relation to the implementation of a PAO, the trustees of the relevant scheme should seek legal advice.

Allocation/surrender of pension

Section 3 of the Superannuation Act 1956, and the Superannuation (Allocation of Pension) Regulations 1957 (S.I. 20/1957), enables an established civil servant to surrender (or allocate) part of their pension to provide a separate pension for one nominated beneficiary. The beneficiary may be a spouse or a dependent relative nominated from among the following: father, mother, step-father, step-mother, son, daughter, grandson, grand-daughter, step-son, step-daughter, brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, son-in-law or daughter-in-law.

Allocation of pension is available only where an individual is retiring on grounds other than ill health (for example, on age grounds). A medical examination by a doctor nominated by the Minister for Public Expenditure, NDP Delivery and Reform is required to be completed not earlier than four months prior to the individual’s retirement.

Payment of the allocated portion of the member’s pension is also subject to additional criteria, for example, an upper limit of one third of pension is permitted and the individual must declare their intention to allocate a portion of their pension at least 6 months before their retirement.

Allocation of pension was introduced at a time when there were no provisions for the award of survivor’s benefits on the death of a serving or retired civil servant. Following the introduction of the civil service Spouses’ and Children’s Pension Schemes, allocation of pension became less relevant and applications have been rare. It is not envisaged that such requests will arise often. However, further information on allocation may be requested from the Pension Policy Unit of Department of Public Expenditure, NDP Delivery and Reform if required.

Supporting information