Skip to main content

Getting divorced later in life, often referred to as grey divorce, can bring about a wide range of emotions and experiences. For some, divorce represents a welcome relief and an opportunity for a fresh start. For others, it can be emotionally taxing, leading to feelings of grief, loneliness, and uncertainty. Either way, it’s a significant life change after a long-term relationship and there are financial considerations.

Changing expectations in retirement

Retirement, and planning for retirement, can prompt couples to reassess their relationship. Without full-time work and child-rearing responsibilities, discussions about the future can reveal diverging dreams and aspirations. For some, the newfound proximity of being at home together without the distractions of a job can highlight irreconcilable differences.

Recent data from the Australian Institute of Family Studies1 indicates that more than one- quarter of the divorces granted in 2021 involved couples who had been married for 20 years or longer. A range of factors contribute to this trend, such as increased life expectancy, evolving societal norms, and a greater emphasis on personal growth and fulfillment in later years.

Managing the financial aspects of divorce

Divorce can be a significant disruptor to financial wellbeing. When a couple parts ways, so does their collective wealth. One of the most significant financial consequences of divorce is the division of superannuation funds – often the largest asset for a couple outside the family home.

The laws relating to the division or splitting of super are complex, so it makes sense to get professional support. Clearly defining and documenting your situation is critical for both retirement and estate planning purposes.

For SASS members there are a number of steps involved in splitting superannuation:

  • Step 1 – requesting your superannuation information 
  • Step 2 – valuing your superannuation 
  • Step 3 – draft splitting Court Order or Superannuation Agreement 
  • Step 4 – final splitting Court Order or Superannuation Agreement 
  • Step 5 – implementing the Court Order or Superannuation Agreement 
  • Step 6 – reducing your benefit after a split has been paid. 

You can read more in the SASS Fact Sheet 14: Family law and superannuation splitting.

Ask an expert

Q. I'm divorced and have been since 2010. I would like to know whether the 'family split' amount has already been taken out of my account and distributed to my ex-partner. I find the statements hard to understand. When are they entitled to their share – when I retire or when they reach retirement age?

A: Once State Super is served a court order instructing that your superannuation interest in SASS is to be split, your ex-partner is contacted so that they can provide payment instructions for their split entitlement. Once these have been provided, the base amount (adjusted for interest to the date of payment), is paid out of the scheme. At this point, the splitting order has been fully satisfied.

Once the split amount has been paid, your SASS benefit will be reduced by the amount paid to your spouse. This is done by an 'initial reduction percentage'. The initial reduction percentage is applied to your personal account balance at the date of the split.

For employer-financed benefits, the initial reduction percentage is recorded and adjusted down while you continue contributing to the scheme and your employer-financed benefits continue to accrue. The downward adjustment ensures that any benefits you accrue after the split are not reduced.

Your annual statement confirms when your super account was initially subject to a family law split. Your statement will also include a table that outlines how your personal account balance, and the balance of any Additional Employer Contributions (AEC), if applicable, will be reduced. You can also find this out by looking at the ‘Your retirement benefit’ and ‘Your alternative benefit’ sections. The ‘family law split’ section confirms the family law reduction percentage that has been applied to your employer-financed benefit. 

If you need help understanding your SASS statement, you can contact the State Super Customer Service Team on 1300 130 095. They can explain what it all means.

Divorce and your SASS death benefit

In the State Super schemes, when a member dies (which can include someone receiving a scheme pension), the general rule provided by the governing legislation of the schemes is that the death benefit is payable to their surviving marital spouse or de facto partner.

However, if a scheme member is married, then separates but does not divorce their legal spouse and forms a new de facto relationship, there can be two eligible claimants for the death benefit. Both surviving parties may feel they have a legitimate claim, but the outcome is by no means clear and requires significant investigation by the trustee and legal interpretation to reach a conclusion, which can often result in disputes.

The scheme legislation states that, ‘Where a death benefit is payable to more than one person because the deceased member left more than one spouse or de facto partner, it’s up to the trustee to determine how the death benefit is paid.’

The fact that you live with a partner may not be sufficient to sustain that partner’s competing claim for payment of a scheme super benefit upon your death, if a previous marriage has not been legally dissolved by divorce and there has been no formal family law settlement or agreement on financial arrangements with your separated spouse.

State Super may have to review available evidence to make a decision about the death benefit payment. If the evidence doesn’t support your new partner’s claim, they may miss out on being paid part or all of the death benefit entitlement.

Readjusting retirement goals

After a divorce, you might find yourself with a reduced income, meaning you need to re-evaluate retirement plans. Here are some practical tips:

  • Understand your new financial reality: Understanding your new financial standing post-divorce, including assets, liabilities, and cash flow, is essential. You may have to adjust for a change in lifestyle and savings. 
  • Revisit your retirement income and budget: Reflect on your retirement goals and budget, and adjust them to your new circumstances. You may need to revise your retirement age or plan to make additional contributions before finishing work. 
  • Check your investment options: With possibly a shorter time horizon and different risk tolerance, your investment approach may need an overhaul. 
  • Plan your estate: Update your will, power of attorney, and beneficiary nominations to reflect your current wishes and ensure your estate is managed as you intend. 

Grey divorce can significantly impact emotional wellbeing and financial stability. For SASS members, understanding how divorce affects superannuation and retirement plans is vital. While the process can be complex and uncertain, with careful planning and professional advice, you can navigate these changes successfully.

If you need help deciding what to do with your SASS benefit, an Aware Super planner can review your personal circumstances, talk you through each option and ultimately help you make a more informed decision.

Attend a webinar

Join a live webinar hosted by our experienced superannuation experts, where they break down complex super and finance information into easy-to-understand topics.

Book an advice appointment

We’re experienced in your State Super scheme and know the ins-and-outs of planning for a successful retirement.

Book a no-cost, obligation-free appointment with an Aware Super financial planner.

Next steps for SASS deferred members

If you’re a SASS deferred member, knowing your options can help you make sure you have the funds to suit your retirement lifestyle.


This information is of a general nature only. Before taking any action, you should consider your personal circumstances, financial situation and needs, and if appropriate seek professional advice. It does not contain any recommendations to you in relation to current products that you hold.

Please read our product disclosure statement and Target Market Determination (TMD) available at before making any decision about Aware products.

Financial planning services are provided by Aware Financial Services Australia Limited (AFSAL) (ABN 86 003 742 756, AFSL 238430), a wholly owned by Aware Super. Issued by Aware Super Pty Ltd (ABN 11 118 202 672, AFSL 29330). You should read the Financial Services Guide before making a decision about using AFSAL services.