What happens to my super if I separate or divorce?

Super can be one of the most valuable assets you accumulate in your lifetime. And like other assets - such as the family home, valuables and investments - many couples choose to split their super during the process of separation or divorce.

The breakdown of a marriage or de facto relationship is usually an emotional time. In many cases there are important decisions you’ll need to make regarding your assets and finances, including some regarding super. So, while it may be the last thing on your mind, it’s important to be prepared and to fully understand the impact separation or divorce can have on your retirement savings1.

What are my best first steps?

The end of a relationship doesn’t have to mean the end of your financial plans. But you may need to develop a new approach. It might take some time to adjust to your situation, but there are a few important things you can do to stay on track:

1. Assess your financial situation

When a relationship breaks down, take a good look at your financial position. Consider this first phase an information-gathering exercise, getting you across all your financial assets and debts.

Having copies of your bills, access to your bank accounts and financial statements, and knowing your super balance and fund details, will help you have a clear picture of your financial situation. 

Your partner has the right to request information about your super from your super fund. And if an agreement is made to split your super, your partner will be asked where their part of your super should be paid.

AustralianSuper member: Consolidate super accounts and search for lost super

2. Know your partner’s super balance

Super is often a forgotten asset when it comes to financial settlements during separation or divorce. Often this is because one partner is not aware of the value of the other’s super. To give yourself a sense what can be agreed on as a fair settlement, it’s important to know how much is in your partner’s super account.

You’re entitled to ask your partner’s super fund to provide this. And you can request this by filling out a form on the Family Court of Australia website or visiting your nearest family law registry – you may need to pay a fee.

3. Seek expert financial advice

Making important financial decisions can feel overwhelming, especially after the breakdown of a relationship. A financial adviser can provide the knowledge and guidance you need to feel more confident about your choices.

Financial advisers are experienced professionals, familiar with super and investment issues. And they have the expertise to help you:

  • understand what to expect once an agreement on splitting your assets (including super) has been reached. 
  • decide what to do about your super contributions going forward – as you may need to adjust to a change in income.
  • help you decide how to invest your part of any super payment made.

AustralianSuper members have access to professional financial advice2 on a fee-for-service basis. Find an adviser online or call us on 1300 300 273  (8am to 8pm AEST/AEDT weekdays) to make an appointment with an adviser near you. 
 

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4. Get legal help

It may be best to seek legal advice before deciding what to do next. A lawyer can help you understand your rights and responsibilities and explain how the law applies to your particular case. They may be able to help you reach an agreement with your former partner without you having to go to court. Engaging the services of a mediator may help with negotiations in tricky situations.

Even if you don't need to go to court, certain parts of the super splitting process require you to declare that you have received independent legal advice - AustralianSuper cannot split a separating couple’s super unless it receives confirmation of this - or an order from the court.

If you're not sure where to start looking, community legal centres and Legal Aid services are available in every state and territory to offer free legal advice.

Find out more: Superannuation splitting laws- Australian Government

What happens once a decision is reached?

Once a valid agreement has been made, or a court order is in place, you’re able to submit your super splitting request. It’s important to be aware that if you or your partner’s super balance is above a certain amount, you may need to have been separated for 12 months before being eligible to apply.

If you’re receiving any of your partner’s super savings as a result of the agreement or court order, you can choose to transfer it into your existing super fund, have it deposited into a new super fund or, if you’ve reached retirement age, have it included as part of your superannuation payout.

 

 Sources/Notes
1. Super splitting laws do not apply to De Facto couples in Western Australia. 
2. The financial advice you receive will be provided under the Australian Financial Services Licence held by a third party and will be their responsibility.  Personal product advice provided may attract a fee, which will be outlined before any work is completed and is subject to your agreement. 


This information is general financial advice which doesn’t take into account your personal objectives, situation or needs. Before making a decision about AustralianSuper, you should think about your financial requirements and refer to the relevant Product Disclosure Statement. AustralianSuper Pty Ltd ABN 94 006 457 987, AFSL 233788, Trustee of AustralianSuper ABN 65 714 394 898. 

Investment returns are not guaranteed. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future returns.

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