Pension for life? Not necessarily if you remarry or cohabit

Year Published: 2014

In the unfortunate event of your spouse’s death, you may assume that the widow or widower’s pension which you receive will continue indefinitely. This is not necessarily the case.

Widows of armed forces personnel have discovered, to their cost, that if they re-marry or cohabit they may lose the pension completely. This applies where the pension scheme was established before 2005, and so applies to a large part of the armed forces population. There have even been cases of widows being prosecuted for fraud for continuing to claim the pension after commencing cohabitation. Widows are required to choose between living with or marrying a new partner and continuing to receive an income. This would clearly appear to be unfair and was declared an “obscenity in modern society” by a military charity, but the government have indicated that they do not intend to change this as it is a long standing principle that such changes are not made retrospectively.

There are other pensions where this may apply too so you should carefully check the details of the scheme if you are considering re-marriage. This is also relevant to the new spouse as in the event of a later marriage breakdown, the fact that the pension holder has given up the pension on marriage, is a factor that would be taken into account when deciding the financial settlement – even where the marriage was of a short duration. You should take specialist legal and financial advice in relation to these matters and potentially consider a pre-marital contract to avoid any issues in the future.

For further information on similar issues, please contact a member of our family team on 01625 442100.

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