What happens to the bach, the boat and your superannuation?
It is no secret that when married couples and de facto partners separate, each individual is typically entitled to a 50% share of all relationship property under the Property (Relationships) Act.
What you and your partner may not realise is that your superannuation falls within the definition of relationship property. Given the Law Commission has identified that superannuation, second to the house, can be one of your most significant assets it is important to know how it may be divided if you and your partner separate.1
So how and why is your ex entitled your superannuation fund?
It may seem counterintuitive that your ex could benefit from a superannuation fund that you, yourself, cannot touch until you reach the age of 65. The good news is that property acquired before your relationship is usually treated as separate and will not form part of the divisible superannuation amount. However, the current law says that any increase to your superannuation during your relationship will be divided equally – irrespective of who contributed the funds.
In the event that you do have to give your ex a percentage of your superannuation the process is not as simple as transferring the money from your superannuation to theirs. The most common arrangement involves handing over another asset that is equal in value, such as a lump sum of cash, the boat, or a greater share in the house.
If your pool of relationship property is not large enough to hand over a lump sum, a loan may be an appropriate alternative.
That said, where neither of the above is an option, the court can make an order directly to the manager of your scheme to release the superannuation funds.
The effects of COVID-19
One of the effects of Covid-19 was the plummet of superannuation fund balances, leaving many funds worth far less than their pre-COVID-19 value. In valuing personal property, the court assesses the amount owed at the date of separation. If you and your partner separated pre-COVID-19, this could have a significant impact on the amount of your super that your ex is entitled to. The expected percentage of your superannuation payable to your partner may reflect an amount of money that no longer exists.
How we can help
Separations are stressful enough, and going to court can add a costly and timely burden. COVID-19 is expected to lead to a spike in separations, exacerbated by lockdown, forcing family tensions to bubble to the surface.
If you’ve separated and need to take care of your assets, our Separation Agreement can help. On the other hand, if you’re entering or already in a relationship, a prenup (Relationship Property Agreement (RPA)) can help provide certainty for the future. Asking your partner for an RPA may not be the most romantic gesture in the world but, in all this uncertainty, there has never been a better time to secure your assets.
Ultimately, our law means that you are entitled to make your own decisions about how to divide your assets. Therefore, instead of leaving it to the Act and the courts to split up what is yours, a prenup or separation agreement is an efficient and cost-effective option.
Disclaimer: Any information we provide is general information. Please do not rely on the contents of this article as legal advice. CODR is not a law firm or a substitute for a lawyer.
1Law Commission Review of the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 (NZLC R143) at 15.43.