What happens to my super if I separate or divorce?

12 July 2022

Super can be one of the most valuable assets you accumulate in your lifetime. 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 can be an emotional time. In many cases, there are important decisions you need to make regarding your assets and finances, including super. While it may be the last thing on your mind, it’s important to understand the impact separation or divorce can have on your retirement savings.

What are your 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. There are a few important things you can do to stay on track.

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.

To help you have a clear picture of your financial situation:

  • Get copies of your bills
  • Make sure you have access to your bank accounts and financial statements
  • Know your super balance and fund details.

Your partner has the right to request information about your super from your super fund. If an agreement is made to split your super1, your partner will be asked where their part of your super should be paid.

AustralianSuper member: Consolidate super accounts and search for lost super

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 isn’t aware of the value of the other’s super. To give yourself a sense of 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. 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.

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 professionals familiar with super and investment issues. They have the expertise to help you:

  • Understand what to expect once you’ve agreed on splitting your assets (including super).
  • 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 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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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 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 requires you to declare you’ve received independent legal advice. AustralianSuper can’t 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.

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. Alternatively, you may have it deposited into a new super fund, or if you’ve reached retirement age include it as part of your superannuation payout.

 

References/Notes:
1. Super splitting laws do not currently apply to de facto couples in Western Australia. The Australian Parliament passed a law to extend superannuation splitting to de facto couples in Western Australia on 3 December 2020 however the Act has not yet commenced as at 5 July 2022. It will commence on a date to be fixed by Proclamation.
2. Personal financial product advice is provided under the Australian Financial Services Licence held by a third party and not by AustralianSuper Pty Ltd. Some personal advice may attract a fee, which would be outlined before any work is completed and is subject to your agreement. With your approval, the fee for advice relating to your AustralianSuper account may be deducted from your AustralianSuper account subject to eligibility criteria.

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

This may include general financial advice which doesn’t take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Before making a decision consider if the information is right for you and read the relevant Product Disclosure Statement, available at australiansuper.com/pds or by calling 1300 300 273. A Target Market Determination (TMD) is a document that outlines the target market a product has been designed for. Find the TMDs at australiansuper.com/TMD.

AustralianSuper Pty Ltd ABN 94 006 457 987, AFSL 233788, Trustee of AustralianSuper ABN 65 714 394 898.

 


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