02 Sep Important family law reform to boost victim-survivors’ financial recovery post-separation
2 September 2021
Important family law reform to boost victim-survivors’ financial recovery post-separation
New laws passed by Federal Parliament today will help women recovering from family violence to rebuild their financial independence after separation, in an important reform initiated by Women’s Legal Service Victoria.
Three years after a Women’s Legal report identified that many women walk away from their superannuation entitlements post-separation, the Government has finally passed legislation that will help stop family violence perpetrators hiding super assets in family law proceedings.
Serina McDuff, CEO of Women’s Legal Service Victoria, said the change removed a major barrier for women across Australia who need to access a fair super split after relationship breakdown.
“This simple but major reform will make it harder for family violence perpetrators to hide multiple super accounts from their former partner when they are going through the family law courts.
“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.
“So many women leave violent relationships with nothing and this has an enormous impact on their ability to recover financially, as well as emotionally, after years of abuse.
“This new scheme will give women a better chance of accessing their fair share of superannuation and increase their ability to build financial independence in later life.”
Ms McDuff said the new law will allow access to superannuation data directly from the Australian Tax Office.
“On average, women retire with almost half the superannuation assets of men and this has a big impact on their standard of living after retirement.
“We still have a long way to go to make sure women are not left high and dry after separating from their violent partner, but this new law removes one important barrier to a fair asset split.”
OUR ROLE IN THIS REFORM
The complexity and cost of splitting superannuation in the family law courts was identified as a key issue by Women’s Legal in its 2018 Small Claims, Large Battles report. We have been advocating for a simpler, more efficient and cost-effective super-splitting process since that time.
The report focused on the experiences of women on low-incomes who were seeking small family law property settlements after separation. It found that, for many women, the legal costs of getting their superannuation entitlements after separation were higher than the amount they would receive.
Two-thirds of the women assisted through the Small Claims project experienced problems with superannuation non-disclosure by their former partner and in 21% of cases superannuation was the only significant asset.
As well as the new ATO information-sharing laws, the Federal Government has implemented several other reforms proposed in the Small Claims report that make it easier for women to process small property claims through the family law system.
These include a small claims pilot which commenced last year, and another pilot that allows financially disadvantaged women to access legally assisted dispute resolution for small property claims.
Women’s Legal continues to work on further reforms to improve the superannuation splitting system in Australia, including working with the super industry and courts to simplify the paperwork required to split super.
Media contact: Emma Miller, 0401 642 535; [email protected]