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AMP.NATSEM39 - For richer, for poorer
Super and retirement
13 December 2016

It takes five years for divorced couples to recover their financial position following separation, according to new research released by AMP today. 

The latest AMP.NATSEM report – For Richer, For Poorer: Divorce in Australia – discovered the financial fallout of divorce not only decimates savings and assets but threatens the ability for many to get back into home ownership, accumulate adequate superannuation and provide desired education outcomes for their children. 

AMP Chief Customer Officer Paul Sainsbury said with one in three Australian marriages ending, divorce has become a major financial shock for many Australians. 

“Understandably, most couples don’t plan for divorce,” said Mr Sainsbury.  “This lack of planning, combined with the significant disruption and emotional distress of a divorce, often means finances are a lower priority and mishandled during a separation. 

“And with Australians now tending to divorce later during our mid 40s and prime wealth-accumulating years – the long-term financial impacts can be considerable.” 

The 39th AMP.NATSEM report found:

  • Divorced parents aged between 45-64 years of age have 25 per cent less assets than their married counterparts.

  • Super balances for divorced mothers are 68 per cent lower than married mothers while on average a divorced mother has 37 per cent less super than a divorced father.

  • Divorced fathers aged between 45-64 still have 60 per cent less superannuation than married fathers five years after a marriage breakdown. 

More than 20 per cent of newly-divorced mothers are struggling to afford basic items including school uniforms and leisure activities.

“Planning ahead for financial challenges such as divorce can go a long way towards reducing its harmful effects” - Paul Sainsbury

Mr Sainsbury said having a solid financial foundation in place could help people achieve their financial goals regardless of what life throws their way.  He said being prepared for a financial shock such as divorce could in fact shave a year off the five-year recovery period. 

“A marriage breakdown is devastating for your finances in the near term and its impact can continue into old age and have serious consequences for financial living standards and retirement prospects later in life,” Mr Sainsbury said.

“Being financially independent and actively engaged with your finances and planning ahead for financial challenges such as divorce can go a long way towards reducing its harmful effects.”

The AMP.NATSEM report found homeownership remained out of reach for many divorced parents.  Five years after a marriage breakdown, 40 per cent of divorced mothers and 32 per cent of divorced fathers still live in rental accommodation.

Overall, homeownership rates for divorced couples are also 15 per cent lower than married couples.

NATSEM Director and author of the report, Professor Laurie Brown, said the effects of divorce can influence children’s education outcomes.

“A family breakdown decreases a child’s chance of getting a university education by 6 per cent,” Professor Brown said.

Other key findings from the report include:

Employment and income

There is a significant increase (14%) in the proportion of women returning to the workforce following divorce, however their income is approximately 10 per cent lower than married women. 

Meanwhile divorce has little impact on the employment status of men. The income of a divorced father is 26 per cent higher than the income of a matched married father. 

Divorced mums are under financial stress

If families are under financial stress most of the household budget is spent on necessity goods.

Newly divorced mums spend 66 per cent of their household budget on basic necessity items such as groceries, clothing and utility bills.

In contrast, married mothers and fathers spend 54 per cent of their household budget on these items. 

Childcare cost strain

30 per cent of divorced mums find the cost of childcare difficult despite their contribution towards the costs of childcare being 33 per cent less than divorced dads.  

Family breakdown increases a child’s chance of becoming an early school leaver

In 2014, one in five adults aged 25-44 years whose parents were divorced when they were fourteen had left school before they completed high school. 

Family breakdown decreases a child’s chance of getting a university qualification by six per cent. For those who lived with both parents only one in ten didn’t complete year 12. 

State by state

Tasmania has the highest number of divorcees (14.8%) in Australia, closely followed by Queensland (14.3%). Victoria and New South Wales have the lowest (10.5% and 10.8% respectively).  


Since 2002, AMP and the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) have produced a series of reports that open windows on Australian society, the way we live and work – and our financial and personal aspirations. 

AMP publishes these reports to help the community make informed financial and lifestyle decisions and to contribute to important social and economic policy debate.