The Australian Government has released draft legislation that will allow family courts to access superannuation information held by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), to assist with the fair division of assets when a relationship ends.
According to Industry Super Australia (ISA), as the law currently stands, finding out the super savings of a former spouse can be a costly, complex, and time-consuming process, and advocates suggest it is mostly low-income women who lack the resources to pursue what they are entitled to.
“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,” ISA chief executive Bernie 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,” he said.
The new laws will streamline the process, making it easy for parties to apply to the ATO and view the super assets of another party during family law proceedings.
An analysis conducted by ISA earlier this year revealed that men have $282 billion more than women in their super funds, while on average women retire with 36 per cent less super than men.
According to the Women’s Legal Service Victoria (WLSV), this new information sharing process was first 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.
WLSV’s manager of policy and campaigns, Tania Clarke, said the release of the draft bill was welcome news for the thousands of women across Australia who have 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,” Ms 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.”
The release of the draft legislation follows news that the Federal Government missed the opportunity to pay superannuation on Commonwealth Parental Leave Pay, which overwhelmingly impacts women’s retirements savings, according to ISA.
“This [draft legislation] will go a little way to helping women recover some of the savings they sacrifice by taking time out of the workforce to raise a family, and now the government needs to end the pregnancy tax and pay super on paid parental leave,” Mr Dean said.