The Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees (AIST) is celebrating the first anniversary tomorrow of a new information sharing system allowing parties in family law property proceedings to obtain details of their former partner’s superannuation.
AIST CEO Eva Scheerlinck said Australian Taxation Office (ATO) data showing that more than 1,600 requests had been made to access this information since the Visibility of Superannuation measures came into effect on 1 April 2022 demonstrated its success.
“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,” Ms Scheerlinck said.
“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% 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.”
Since 1 April 2022, parties to 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 superannuation information held by the Australian Taxation Office.
According to the Attorney General’s Department, hiding or under-disclosing superannuation is now harder, reducing the time, cost and complexity of family law property proceedings process and helping couples to divide their property on a just and equitable basis.
The system was introduced after the passage of legislation in 2021 that amended taxation and other acts.
Ms Scheerlinck said credit should go to the many organisations and people who worked together to ensure the enabling legislation was passed in 2021 and the information sharing system was introduced last year.
Women’s Legal Service Victoria Legal Director Lisa Fowler said stopping family violence perpetrators from hiding super assets when they were going through the family law courts benefited thousands of women.
“In just one year more than 1,600 people have used this scheme to rebuild their financial independence after separation,” Ms Fowler said.
“For low-income families, superannuation is often the biggest – or only – asset of a relationship so it’s important that it can be fairly split when the relationship ends.
“I urge family lawyers across the country to use this important system in the best interests of their clients.”
Women in Super CEO Jo Kowalczyk said equally dividing super in Family Court proceedings acknowledged the unpaid work women were doing 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,” Ms Kowalczyk said.
Centre for Women’s Economic Safety spokesperson Tania Clarke said her organisation had been a big supporter of the campaign to provide women with the ability to find out how much their partner had in super during family law proceedings.
“It was a terrible injustice that the system enabled perpetrators of economic abuse to hide assets and undermine their partner’s financial security. It’s great to now see such a relatively simple change having a major, positive impact,” Ms Clarke said.
Here is a link to audio grabs from Eva Scheerlinck:
AIST CEO Eva Scheerlinck grabs on super info sharing system.mp3