Women going through a divorce will find it easier to claim their fair share of superannuation assets if draft legislation released on Tuesday is passed into law.
The law as it currently stands does not allow a party to family law proceedings to request information from the Australian Taxation Office about their former partner’s superannuation assets.
But the Morrison government wants to introduce new legislation that gives this power to parties so they no longer have to rely on disclosures from their former partner and can ask the ATO directly to see their assets.
Advocates and legal professionals said the reforms were long overdue and while non-gendered would particularly help women from low-income households and those escaping family violence.
A landmark 2018 report from the Women’s Legal Service – which was the first to call for the changes at the heart of the new bill – found that superannuation “was the only significant asset” in the property pool for 21 per cent of the disadvantaged women involved in its ‘Small Claims’ project.
And so it argued removing barriers to information about a former partner’s superannuation was crucial to ensuring disadvantaged women come away from proceedings with their fair share of assets.
“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,” said Tania Clarke, manager of policy and campaigns at Women’s Legal Service Victoria.
Ms Clarke led the push for the proposed changes and described the new bill as “a huge deal” for the thousands of women who had no choice but to walk away from their superannuation entitlements after splitting from their partner.
She was joined by advocacy groups Women in Super, Industry Super Australia and the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees in warmly welcoming the release of the draft legislation – with ISA CEO Bernie Dean describing it as “a positive development”.
“For far too long women have found it too hard to get a fair share of financial assets like super when a relationship ends, so this is a positive development,” Mr Dean said.
“The last thing anyone needs in a stressful time, like divorce, is to be confronted with a complex and costly process to get assets they may be legally entitled to.”
In an interview with The New Daily, KHQ Lawyers director Monica Blizzard, an accredited family law specialist, said it wasn’t uncommon for parties to have to wait a full month for the other side to disclose their superannuation holdings.
She said there was often “a real tug of war around financial disclosure” that needlessly complicated matters and cost clients a lot of money.
“It would just simplify everything and allow us to go directly to the source,” Ms Blizzard said of the reforms.
“It really would cut out the need for a lot of correspondence and backwards and forwards, which costs clients a huge amount of money.”
The draft bill is now available on Treasury’s website and is open to public consultation until June 28.
The New Daily is owned by Industry Super Holdings