Family law super changes welcomed

Government changes to super in family law proceedings has been welcomed by the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees (AIST), Women’s Legal Service Victoria (WLSV) and Women in Super (WIS). 

The Government released exposure draft legislation to help identify superannuation assets by parties to family law proceedings, which would leverage information held by the Australian Tax Office (ATO).  

AIST and WLSV said the long-awaited legislation was critical in preventing family violence perpetrators from hiding their superannuation assets when they were going through the family law courts. 

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WLSV said this was recommended in their ‘Small Claims Large Battles’ report in 2018. 

“While the Government had promised to introduce the required legislation in the middle of last year, this has been delayed until now,” it said. 

Tania Clarke, WLSV manager of policy and campaigns, said the release of the draft bill was welcome news for the thousands of women across Australia who had to walk away from their superannuation entitlements after splitting from their partner. 

“Once this legislation is passed, it will be harder for perpetrators of family violence to hide information about their superannuation accounts, as the court will be able to get that information directly from the ATO,” Clarke said. 

“For many of our clients this reform will be the difference between walking away from a relationship with nothing, and getting a fair split of super assets that will help them recover financially from years of abuse. 

“We urge the Government to introduce the legislation as soon as possible and look forward to working with stakeholders on how the process can work best in practice.” 

Eva Scheerlinck, AIST chief executive, said the Government had delivered on the legislation, noting the scheme which followed on from the recent Budget announcement to remove the $450 monthly income threshold for compulsory super contributions was another important step in improving the retirement outcomes of women. 

She said Parliament should pass the legislation quickly, in the August sittings. 

“Superannuation is often the biggest – or only – asset in a relationship; importantly, this new measure will speed up what can be a very difficult process,” Scheerlinck said. 

“Providing a single, reliable source of truth about which super funds their former spouse is a member of will make it much harder for parties to hide or under-disclose their superannuation assets.” 

WIS said too many women were walking away from their share of a relationship’s assets, which included superannuation, due to the current complicated and costly process.  

Sandra Buckley, WIS chief executive, said the current process was time-consuming, difficult to navigate without legal advice and costly. 

“This legislation will enable the ATO to provide information on assets held directly and securely to the courts so that due process can occur and not be jeopardised by withholding of information,” Buckley said. 

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