Western Australian de facto couples will soon be permitted to split their superannuation to achieve a fair division of assets in the event that their relationships break down.
The long-anticipated reform will bring WA into line with the rest of the nation.
As it stands, the Family Court of Western Australia is unable to make an order splitting superannuation assets when it comes to de facto couples.
This is in marked contrast to married couples in WA, as well as married and de facto couples elsewhere in Australia.
Superannuation is often a couple’s biggest asset. The inability in WA to include it in the division of property accumulated during a de facto relationship has disproportionately disadvantaged women, who retire on average with half the superannuation of men.
The State Government could not introduce this Bill until corresponding legislation was passed by the Commonwealth Parliament. The State Government first asked the Commonwealth Government to do this in 2006, but the Commonwealth Government would only do so if the State handed complete legislative control over de facto relationships to the Commonwealth.
It was not until strong advocacy by the McGowan Government that the Commonwealth finally agreed to accept and implement a narrow referral of legislative power from WA dealing only with de facto superannuation splitting.
As stated by Attorney General John Quigley:
“WA remains the only Australian jurisdiction where separating de facto couples cannot split their superannuation.
“Married couples who divorce, and de facto couples who separate in the rest of Australia, must treat superannuation like any other financial asset during contested settlements.
“But outdated arrangements in WA mean a superannuation nest egg cannot be split among de facto partners calling it quits.
“Instead, each partner walks away with their individual superannuation account balance – no matter how disproportionate they are.
“This can create severe injustices where there are not enough other assets to help make a fair division of property between the splitting de facto partners and women are overwhelmingly disadvantaged in these circumstances.
“In eight-and-a-half years, the Barnett Government was unable to bridge this impasse with the Commonwealth, and I made it a priority on coming to office to right this historical wrong.
“Following lengthy negotiations, the Commonwealth Government agreed to change their laws to accommodate de facto couples in WA and I am delighted to be the Attorney General to bring this important change to Western Australia.”