The West Australian
De facto couples in super win
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.