Superannuation and family law

Date: May 20, 2011

In the event of a relationship breakdown, one thing that many parties do not consider is how superannuation can be a factor in determining how assets should be divided.

Since 2009, opposite-sex and same-sex de facto couples can also come under the Family Law Act and superannuation splits may be applied when assets are divided.

The new rules allow for a portion one party's superannuation to be transferred to the other person's fund.

Prior to 2002, superannuation entitlements caused a number of problems when it came to family law financial settlements, as it was not possible to divide this asset.

In this case, the person with the larger superannuation fund may have received a smaller share of other property to account for the imbalance.

This caused some debate, as it was difficult to determine in today's money how much tomorrow's retirement benefits were worth.

Under the changes made to the law nine years ago, a split of superannuation - which is either achieved by a Superannuation Agreement between both people or by a court order - must be implemented by a fund manager as long as the required formalities are met.

No matter how the fund is split - usually into a separate account, which can then be moved into any fund the receiving party chooses - the money must remain in a superannuation fund and can only be accessed under the government-established rules about supers.

If you are in the middle of a relationship breakdown and you are unsure of how your assets should be divided, getting in touch with a family lawyer is an important first step.

The breakdown of a relationship can be an emotional period for everyone involved, so it is important to find a lawyer who treats you with empathy and respect.

An experienced lawyer specialising in family law can meet with you to discuss your needs and the various options available to you - as well as an estimate of your legal costs.

Many people prefer making a reasonable out-of-court settlement and your lawyer will be able to negotiate on your behalf. Mediation and collaborative law can also be used to ensure a fair result.

Whether you need advice on superannuation and tax issues, opposite-sex or same-sex relationships, family trusts, children's issues, spousal maintenance or separation agreements, a skilled and experienced family lawyer can give you the assistance you need.