Suddenly single: what happens to your superannuation?

29 May 2023 4 min read

There can be a lot to think about when a relationship ends. For many, divorce or separation can be difficult, and taking stock of your finances may not be your priority. However, did you know your superannuation is considered a marital asset, like property or savings?

Do you have to divide your super with your former partner?

For many Australians, superannuation is the largest financial asset after the family home.1 When a relationship ends, your superannuation can be divided with your former partner as part of an agreement or by court order. This includes marriage or, in certain circumstances, de facto relationships, both heterosexual and same-sex. The rules do not apply to de facto couples in Western Australia.2

How can superannuation be split?

The super benefit can be split as part of the property settlement either by:

  • Agreement between the parties or
  • Court order if the parties do not agree and the settlement is decided by a court.

A benefit can be “flagged” by a Flagging Agreement or court order or split by a Splitting Agreement or court order.

A superannuation payment flag is generally used when where one party may try to access their superannuation without the consent of their ex-partner and prior to a property settlement agreement being reached between the parties. If a benefit becomes payable to the member while a flag is in place, it cannot be paid, and NGS Super will notify the parties or the Court. A payment flag will remain in place until an agreement is reached, and final court orders are made.

Splitting means a decision on how to split the benefit, and a portion will be allocated to the non-member spouse.

Splitting super does not automatically mean the benefit is accessible in cash or any other form. Preservation laws remain, and superannuation can only be accessed at preservation age or by meeting other conditions of release.

Learn more about splitting super.

What are the potential problems for women with super during separation or divorce?

‘Women in Super’ has reported that women still retire with 47% less super than men.3 This can happen for several reasons, a common one being women not receiving super on the 18-week paid parental leave scheme. While most types of paid leave include super, parental leave doesn’t — meaning mums are being left behind.4

The gap between a couple’s savings can be significant. Women who are single, divorced or widowed are much more likely to suffer poverty, housing stress and homelessness.5

From 1 April 2022 the law allows individuals in a current property settlement proceeding to request super information about their current or former spouse/de facto partner through the Family Courts.

If you are involved in a current property settlement proceeding, you can access information about the amount of super in your ex-partner’s account by making a request via the Commonwealth Courts Portal.

What other steps do you need to take?

NGS Super cannot provide legal information. It’s important to note that every situation is different. Consider seeking legal advice if you have any questions or need assistance with your finances and the separation or divorce.

You may be eligible to access free legal advice through Community Legal Centres or Legal Aid.

Learn as much as you can about your finances

Learning about and understanding your finances will help to achieve financial independence. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. No question is bad, and the answer may transform your future.

NGS Super has a range of tools to get you started, including our easy super quiz and super savings calculator.

You can also book a call with one of our Super Specialists. Whether at the start of your career journey, approaching retirement or anywhere in between, our Super Specialists are here to help. It’s free, and they can help you with any questions about superannuation, investments or insurance.

You don’t have to be an NGS Super member to set up a call with one of our Super Specialists. Book your call.

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