Super visibility law records over 1,600 access requests

6 April 2023
| By Rhea Nath |
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The information sharing system implemented last year, which allowed parties in family law property proceedings to obtain details of their former partner’s superannuation, was an important step in improving gender equality in super, according to leading associations.

Data from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) revealed the visibility of super law had recorded over 1,600 requests since coming into effect on 1 April 2022.

“The fact that so many people have used the system in its first year of operation is testimony to the big difference it is making to the parties to these proceedings, particularly women, including those who have experienced family violence,” said Eva Scheerlinck, chief executive of the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees (AIST). 

“It is another important step in improving the fairness of our $3.4 trillion retirement savings system, but much remains to be done to close the gender gap that sees women retiring with 40 per cent less super than men.

“This is not only a function of them earning less on average than their male counterparts and taking more time out of the workforce to care for children and family but, in too many cases, they have had to leave difficult or violent relationships without their share of the super because it has been hidden.”

With the measures, those in family law property proceedings have been able to apply to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia or the Family Court of Western Australia to ask for their former partner’s super information held by the ATO. 

It was aimed to help couples divide their property on a just and equitable basis and stop perpetrators of economic abuse from hiding assets. 

It would also reduce the time, cost, and complexity of the family law property proceedings process.

Per recent ATO data, the biggest financial gap between men and women sat in their super accounts. By 2030, men were projected to hold $432,000 in super at retirement on average, whereas women in the same position would have a balance of just $262,000.

Women’s Legal Service Victoria legal director, Lisa Fowler, noted the measures assisted individuals in rebuilding their financial independence after separation.

“For low-income families, super is often the biggest — or only — asset of a relationship so it’s important that it can be fairly split when the relationship ends,” she said.

“I urge family lawyers across the country to use this important system in the best interests of their clients.”
Jo Kowalczyk, Women in Super chief executive, said equally dividing super was an acknowledgement of the unpaid work women did to care for their households at a loss to their own super. 

“Accessing their partner’s super at the end of the relationship helps to address this contributing factor to the gender super gap and is a step to ensuring women are not punished financially for taking time out of the workforce to care for their families,” she stated.
 

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