The new super reforms that have been years in the making have finally been passed through Parliament. The Treasury Laws Amendment (2021 Measure No. 6) Bill 2021(Schedule 5) will come into effect from 1 April next year. With the aim of improving visibility of superannuation assets in family law proceedings, the reforms are being hailed as a big win for women in particular, but they’ll also benefit family law consumers generally.
Superannuation is a major asset in family law property proceedings, sometimes a couple’s biggest asset. And yet, dividing property in the most fair and equitable way has often been hindered by the fact that it has been difficult for spouses to access information on their ex’s super assets.
Super reforms – what’s new?
With the new super reforms, applicants who are a party to a family law property proceeding will be able to make an application to seek their former spouse’s super information held by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). The ATO will then be able to release that information after which a party can use it to obtain current super details from their ex’s super fund.
All family law consumers stand to benefit from the new super reforms. That’s because family law consumers will potentially save greatly on legal fees as a result of ATO information going straight to the court by request. The move will limit the time needed to be spent by lawyers on gathering financial disclosure and the back and forth correspondence that typically entails. The simplification of information disclosure will remove issues around super asset disclosure and enable parties to “go straight to the source” to get the information.
Super reforms will especially benefit women
It’s well known now that women tend to suffer greater financial impacts upon divorce, with much lower retirement incomes common. Women’s traditional homemaker roles have seen their wealth impacted over their lifetime. Women may have taken time out of work to raise families or to care for elderly parents. And when they return to the workforce (if they do), it’s often part-time, reducing their ability to earn super.
When it comes to divorce, women with little or no super have often had to walk away from a fair share of their legal entitlements due to the difficulties in obtaining accurate and full super information from their former spouse. One party’s lack of disclosure can have a huge impact on the outcome of the property settlement.
The super reforms are especially important given that new research shows that one in four Australians has no super at all; in that case the ability to access a share of their ex’s super will drastically improve their quality of life.
The findings come from a survey of 1007 people by Finder and match similar figures produced by the University of Melbourne’s Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey in 2019.
The HILDA survey previously showed that there’s a high percentage of Baby Boomers who don’t hold super. And due to prior social norms, a large proportion of the Baby Boomer cohort held traditional gender roles with the husband being the breadwinner and the wife the homemaker. As such, many Boomer women have far less super or none at all.
Experts point out it’s still vital that we address the root causes of inequalities around men and women’s super balances, however the super reforms are a step in the right direction.
You can read the Attorney-General’s press release here.
Do you need assistance with a family law matter? Please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400.
Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Family Law.
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