WA is the only Australian jurisdiction where de facto couples who split walk away with their individual superannuation, unlike divorced couples who must treat it like any other financial asset during contested settlements.
HESTA, Australia’s fifth-biggest industry super fund, has formally asked the State Government to fall into line with Commonwealth law, which extended superannuation-splitting arrangements to de facto couples in 2009.
WA’s Family Court sits outside the Federal framework.
In many cases super is a couple’s second-biggest asset after the family house, and its importance is increasing amid declining home ownership.
In divorce settlements, splitting it is considered a fair reflection of time spent away from the workforce raising children — a role performed overwhelmingly by women, who retire on average with half the super of men.
More than 200,000 West Australians declared themselves in de facto relationships in last year’s Census, up 30,000 since 2011.
HESTA, representing predominantly female health and community workers, argues the WA framework disproportionately disadvantages women and same-sex couples, who cannot marry.
“I think it’s really important you don’t have discrimination … when you look at a couple’s assets if a relationship breaks down,” chief executive Debby Blakey said.
Curtin Business School professor of economics and retirement incomes researcher Siobhan Austen said women not only spent more time away from work raising children but also often returned to work part-time and earned less than men.
“The WA Government should make that change,” she said.
The amendments to the Family Law Act, supported yesterday by WA Council of Social Service chief executive Louise Giolitto, are being considered by State Attorney-General John Quigley.
An “inequitable situation” had “crept into the system”, he said.
Lavan head of family law Framy Browne said currently the WA Family Court could consider superannuation as a “financial resource” in de facto relationship separations, but it could not be split, creating inequity where most assets were held in super.
Read More: The West Australian
By: Daniel EmersonBack to News
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