Australian superannuation laws apply to both married and de facto couples, including same-sex couples, and superannuation is treated like any other asset in a marriage or de facto relationship when parties separate. That is, superannuation entitlements can be divided up and shared as part of a property settlement package.

Sometimes, there is an equalisation of the total superannuation held by the parties. In this instance, the party with the greater amount of superannuation transfers the required amount into the other party's fund (regardless of whether it is the same fund or another superannuation fund altogether) to equalise each party's respective retirement savings. Alternatively, an agreed percentage of a party's superannuation can be split into the former spouse's fund in line with the overall percentage split of assets.

It is important to note that splitting does not 'convert' superannuation into a cash asset; it is still subject to superannuation preservation laws and, depending on the fund and an individual's personal financial circumstances, cannot be accessed until retirement age or otherwise in accordance with the fund's policy.

Parties will often use their separation as an opportunity to create a self-managed superannuation fund as part of an overall reassessment of their financial circumstances and financial portfolio. Financial advice including taxation advice should be sought in this regard.

Superannuation can be a complex and challenging area of law and it is advisable for separating couples to seek advice before proceeding with a settlement involving changes to their superannuation.