A man must pay a portion of his public service pension over a 14-year period to his estranged wife as part of orders made by the High Court in divorce proceedings.
Mr Justice John Jordan accepted the wife’s argument that appropriate pension adjustment orders – ranging from 46 per cent to 70 per cent – should be made in respect of the husband’s public sector pension to create a “degree of equity” between the pair’s pension rights.
He noted the wife has a “modest” pension of €20,000 which she ceased contributing to some years ago “probably because it was a luxury she could not afford”.
The husband, meanwhile, has a “valuable” public service pension which “must be a feature in the consideration of the provision to be made for the wife and the dependent children”, he said.
The husband is a member of a pension scheme with an associated spouses and children’s scheme.
Family law legislation does not confer any pension scheme entitlements as such, but it allows the court to make orders which confer such powers, the judge said.
A pension expert for the husband had pointed to a preference for other assets, if available, to be leaned on rather than protracted and complex pension orders where benefits can only be realised long after a couple has divorced.
Mr Justice Jordan concluded failure to make pension provisions for the woman would leave her “significantly disadvantaged financially by reason of her dedication and commitment to the marriage and to the rearing of the children”.
He ordered the husband to pay part of his pension over 14 years, equivalent to the length of their marriage until divorce.
Both spouses, the judge said, are hard-working parents who did not enjoy a lavish lifestyle.
He was satisfied the husband’s employment as a public servant on a €42,000 salary is secure, and he could hope for a promotion, while the wife’s earnings – just under €35,000 last year from self-employed and employed work, could also improve over time. She is in receipt of children’s allowance, he also noted.
The case came before the High Court after the husband appealed certain orders made earlier this year by the Circuit Court. The focus of the case concerned financial issues.
Mr Justice Jordan said the wife’s energy in looking after their young children is notable, and she had not sought spousal maintenance despite being the primary carer.
The man “appears to have little appreciation of these facts”, he remarked, concluding the larger part of the financial responsibility “cannot be visited on the mother”.
It is “probable” she would have improved her skills and career options had she not had the couple’s children and looked after them throughout, albeit with childminding assistance, he said.
The judge noted the husband lives with a new partner, and her children, in rented accommodation, and had said his financial position was such she had to assist him in buying new work clothes.
Mr Justice Jordan made orders for the husband to pay €45 weekly per child for child maintenance, up from €35 per week.
He also directed him to pay maintenance arrears of €528 and make contributions to the children’s extracurricular activities, pay half of their educational costs, their health insurance, critical illness cover and life insurance.
He affirmed an order for equal mortgage repayments on the family home, where the wife lives with their children. The judge also ordered the home be placed on the market when the youngest child turns 20, or sooner if agreed otherwise, with sale costs divided evenly.