One thing that people can have difficulty with understanding is that in a Family Law property settlement between a couple, most of the assets are clearly defined: house, cars, personal property, shares etc. But there is another asset which does need to be taken into consideration, and that is superannuation.

There are a number of superannuation schemes that have different characteristics. For example, many public servants have what is called a defined benefit, so that when they reach a certain age they will receive either a pension or a lump sum which is preordained. Many other people have what we call contribution schemes, so that they can receive back from superannuation that which they have contributed, in addition to growth on that fund.

Therefore, when you are contemplating a property settlement, it is most important that you try and give the superannuation interest a value. It is sometimes necessary for that interest to be valued by an expert to give it a figure that can be added to the asset pool for division amongst the parties.

What has now been in place for some ten years, is that you are in a position to put mechanisms in place to transfer sums of superannuation between parties to a property settlement. For example, if the wife has no superannuation, then she can immediately have a lump sum from her husband’s superannuation transferred into a scheme for her benefit. In other circumstances a flag can be placed on a superannuation fund in one person’s name, so that when the payment of the lump sum is made, upon retirement, that lump sum is paid to the ex-spouse, rather than the person in whose name the fund is recorded.

So, when dealing with superannuation, it is very important for people to understand that it should be taken into consideration in a property settlement. It should be valued, and there are a number of ways of dealing with it.