De facto cou­ples in su­per win

The West Australian - - NEWS - Phoebe Wearne Can­berra

The grow­ing num­ber of West Aus­tralians in de facto re­la­tion­ships will soon be able to split their as­sets “fairly” in the event of a break-up un­der lon­gawaited changes to how su­per­an­nu­a­tion is dealt with in prop­erty set­tle­ments.

Fed­eral At­tor­ney-Gen­eral Chris­tian Porter will to­day an­nounce the Govern­ment has agreed to amend the Fam­ily Law Act “as soon as pos­si­ble” to al­low the move, end­ing a decade-old stale­mate with the WA Govern­ment.

Un­der cur­rent ar­range­ments, de facto cou­ples in WA are the only group in the coun­try who walk away with their in­di­vid­ual su­per­an­nu­a­tion af­ter a re­la­tion­ship break­down.

In many cases su­per is a cou­ple’s sec­ond-big­gest as­set af­ter the fam­ily home, and men usu­ally have much big­ger su­per bal­ances, par­tic­u­larly when their part­ner has had time away from the work­force rais­ing chil­dren.

De­scrib­ing the sit­u­a­tion as “fun­da­men­tally un­fair”, Mr Porter said it had dis­ad­van­taged thou­sands, par­tic­u­larly women, in prop­erty set­tle­ments.

“If a woman has got $100,000 in su­per, and there is $100,000 eq­uity in a house, and the man has got $500,000 su­per, then the woman al­ways comes out worse off than she would un­der any other sit­u­a­tion in Aus­tralia, and that’s just not fair,” Mr Porter told The West Aus­tralian.

“It has re­sulted in in­equitable splits of prop­erty, es­pe­cially in sit­u­a­tions where su­per­an­nu­a­tion is the main as­set, as oc­curs of­ten when hous­ing prop­erty is heav­ily mort­gaged.”

De facto cou­ples in other States must treat su­per­an­nu­a­tion like any other fi­nan­cial as­set in con­tested set­tle­ments.

The anom­aly arose be­cause WA’s Fam­ily Court sits out­side the Fed­eral frame­work, and the State had been ask­ing the Fed­eral Govern­ment to ac­cept only a nar­row re­fer­ral of prop­erty divi­sion pow­ers to en­sure su­per­an­nu­a­tion can be split.

All other States fully re­ferred prop­erty divi­sion pow­ers to the Com­mon­wealth long ago.

Mr Porter said the Mor­ri­son Govern­ment would ac­cept the lim­ited re­fer­ral pro­vided by WA At­tor­ney-Gen­eral John Quigley this year, and other as­pects of prop­erty divi­sion would be kept within State law. He hoped the leg­isla­tive amend­ments could be dealt with next year.

“This will at last mean that sep­a­rat­ing de facto cou­ples in West­ern Aus­tralia can be treated fairly by the courts and, in terms of su­per­an­nu­a­tion, con­sis­tently with de facto cou­ples across the coun­try,” he said.

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