Divorce after retirement — what you need to know

Last updated on 15 March 2024

Getting divorced in retirement can be complicated, but it’s always an option. [Source: Shutterstock]

Key points:

  • The proportion of divorces involving children under 18 years has fallen since the 1970s, from 68 percent in 1975 to 48 percent in 2021 — the general declining trend is partly due to the rise in divorces of long-term marriages where children are already grown up
  • In 2021, 56 percent of separations and 41 percent of divorces were couples for nine years or less
  • The total number of divorces granted in 2021 was 56,244, the highest number of divorces recorded since 1976

When people talk about the impact of divorce, they often talk about what’s happening in the breakdown of the nuclear family; however, the impact of the end of a marriage is intense and complicated.

Some people may have to consider retiring, relocating or changing jobs to adjust to changes in their living situation. For example, a mum may choose to be closer to her parents to get help with childcare support. When these things happen, newly divorced people are at risk of feeling isolated.

Additionally, 40 percent of Australians with a super account have more than one account, meaning that — during the process of cataloguing paperwork, finances and finalising the divorce — things can be difficult to track.

Initially, you will want to make a note of when you separated, as a couple is generally required to be separated for at least one year unless you can satisfy the court. You will want to change your passwords and secure your personal accounts, along with gathering financial statements — banking, super, investments, et cetera.

Information on the benefits and risks of joint accounts can be found on the MoneySmart website, along with a step-by-step guide to account closure during a divorce.

Make a list of your assets and debts and, if applicable, talk to your lawyer or contact a Family Dispute Resolution provider. The Family Court or the Federal Circuit Court can formalise your property arrangements. Time limits of one or two years apply.

Depending on your circumstances — jointly owned property, a shared mortgage, a shared lease or a situation wherein one party is wholly responsible for housing — you may need to contact a relevant party to notify them of any changes. A detailed explanation is available through the MoneySmart dropdown explainer.

When divesting, dividing or divvying up assets while separating, super is regarded as property. However, if you manage a self-managed super fund and if your former partner is a trustee, it may be wise to seek legal advice.

Contact Services Australia to determine whether you are eligible for government payments for separated parents, older single adults or child support as a result of your divorce.

It is important to create a new budget so that you can determine whether and to what degree you are financially secure, following significant changes to your life. You will need to tell Centrelink you have separated as soon as possible and you can only be paid a higher rate of payment from the date you advise them as backpay is unavailable.

Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, verbal or financial abuse

If you or your children are feeling unsafe, call: 1800 RESPECT — 1800 737 737 — 24 hours a day, to speak to a domestic violence counsellor from the national sexual assault and domestic violence counselling service.

Protect yourself

Call 000 if you are in danger or need help with a protection order, like an Apprehended Violence Order.

How are you feeling about leaving your marriage? Let the team at Your Retirement Living know your thoughts and subscribe to the newsletter for more information, news and industry updates.

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