21 November 2018
Media Release - #2018040, 2018

Improving visibility of superannuation assets in family law proceedings

Joint media release
with the Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP
Minister for Jobs and Industrial Relations
Minister for Women
and the Hon Christian Porter MP
Attorney-General

Women will get a better deal in accessing superannuation assets at the end of a relationship as a consequence of a new information-sharing initiative announced today as part of the Coalition Government’s Women’s Economic Security Package.

$3.3 million will be provided to the Australian Taxation Office to develop an electronic information-sharing system to ensure the family law courts have better visibility of parties’ superannuation assets when making property orders.

Separating couples will have access to faster and fairer family law property settlements as a result of this new system which will make it easier to identify lost or undisclosed superannuation assets.

“The Coalition Government’s Women’s Economic Security Statement is delivering practical measures to help give women greater choices about their lives and to build financial security for themselves and their families,” Minister for Women, Kelly O’Dwyer, said.

“Improving the visibility of superannuation assets in family law proceedings is particularly important for Australian women.”

“The Coalition Government is focused on delivering a family law system that supports the needs of Australian families,” Attorney-General, Christian Porter, said.

“Getting full visibility of superannuation assets in family law matters can be complex, time‑consuming and costly, often requiring parties to go on ‘fishing expeditions’ using subpoenas and other formal court processes, with no guarantee of success. This new system will ensure faster and fairer resolutions of family law property disputes.”

“Superannuation is often the most significant asset in a separated couple’s property pool, particularly for low-income households with few assets,” Assistant Treasurer, Stuart Robert, said.

“About 40 per cent of people with superannuation have more than one account.”

“In 2015–16, the gap between the median superannuation balance of men and women nearing retirement age was 42 per cent,” Minister O’Dwyer said.

“Parties to family law proceedings are legally required to disclose all of their assets to the court, including superannuation, however, in practice, parties may forget, or deliberately withhold, information about their superannuation assets.”

The non-disclosure of superannuation assets can often disproportionately disadvantage women due to a significant disparity in superannuation savings between men and women. A lack of financial disclosure by a former partner can result in women receiving a smaller share of property than they would otherwise be entitled to.”

Non-disclosure of assets in family law proceedings can also delay cases. A recent study by the Women’s Legal Service Victoria found that two-thirds of clients surveyed faced delays caused by a former partner failing to make the necessary financial disclosures.

Giving the courts access to superannuation information held by the ATO is expected to result in faster and fairer family law property settlements. It will help parties in family law proceedings, particularly women, avoid the cost and complexity involved in seeking superannuation information from multiple superannuation funds, or subpoenaing employment records.

It will also provide the family law courts with a more accurate and reliable source of superannuation information to inform a property settlement, and result in more just and equitable outcomes.

The electronic information-sharing system will commence on 1 July 2020.