The West Australian

De facto couples in super win

- 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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia