Pamela Shirley, from Reigate in Surrey, was divorced at the age of 47. Up to that time, she had done a mixture of full-time and part-time teaching as she brought up her family and had paid reduced-rate contributions, knowing that she could rely on her husband's record for her basic state pension when she reached retirement age.
The reduced rate has not been available to women who married after 12 May 1977. Pamela was sure that those who divorce lose the option and she would then have to pay full contributions. She also knew that she could use her ex-husband's contribution record during the 26 years of their marriage and as long as she paid for the 13 years until she reached 60 she would qualify for the full basic state pension.
What she did not realise when she remarried a couple of years later was that she would have to rely on her current husband's contribution record, and all she would get when she reached retirement at 60 would be a pension based on her own contributions. The pension based on her husband's record would not be paid until three years later, when he reached 65.
Pamela is now 57 and assuming she stays in employment the pension she has earned in her own right will bring in about pounds 20 a week at current benefit rates, but only for three years. It will be far less than the dependant's pension, which stands at pounds 32.55 or the single pension of pounds 54.15 she hoped to get. She feels that her contributions have been a waste of money.
'I was given no advice about this either by my solicitor or by the DSS before I remarried, and I wonder how many other women will get a shock when they discover that their pension has reverted to the Government,' she said.
A woman who is divorced before the age of 60 and who remarries after her 60th birthday can claim the state pension on her ex-husband's record, and it cannot then be taken away from her.
So far as the state pension is concerned, get hold of leaflet NI1 (National Insurance Choices for Married Women) and leaflet NI95 (National Insurance for Divorced Women). Then check your entitlement by asking the DSS in Newcastle-upon-Tyne to run a pension forecast using form BR19. This should determine whether it is worth switching from reduced rate to full contributions or paying class 3 voluntary contributions.
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