Government urged to make superannuation visible in family court

With the Morrison government decidedly abandoning its controversial plan to allow domestic violence survivors early super access, calls are increasing for victims to be enabled access to their superannuation in family court settings. 

The government has abandoned its plan to allow women to withdraw up to $10,000 from their superannuation accounts on “compassionate grounds”.

While on the surface it appeared to be a good idea, women rights groups feared such a proposal could be rorted by abusive partners, who could force women to apply for early access to superannuation.

The Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees (AIST) said it welcomed the government’s abandoning of the domestic violence superannuation scheme, while announcing its intention to seek assurance the superannuation data sharing scheme will not end up on the back burner. 

The government last week announced that both superannuation measures would be introduced in the same piece of draft legislation.

The data-sharing scheme was announced more than two years ago by the government in its 2018 Women’s Economic Statement, but remains unimplemented. 

This follows the Women’s Legal Service Victoria’s report, which identified that the lack of visibility of super assets during family law proceedings could exacerbate the financial hardship experienced by women.

AIST CEO Eva Scheerlinck said the superannuation industry and women’s advocates have been calling on the government to urgently implement the data-sharing scheme to improve the financial wellbeing of victims of financial abuse as superannuation is often their biggest – or only – asset in these relationships.

“Family violence victims and financially disadvantaged women have struggled for far too long to gain access to their partner’s super balance details during separation or divorce proceedings,” Ms Scheerlinck said. 

“We urge the government to push ahead and prioritise the data-sharing scheme now it has made the decision to abandon the other measure.”

The data sharing scheme would make superannuation assets more visible when they are going through the family law courts by allowing the sharing of superannuation data between the courts and the ATO.

“Allowing the courts to access ATO data is a simple measure that will make the process far more efficient, fair and cost-effective both for the individuals concerned and the super industry, and will help close the gender super gap for the most vulnerable women,” Ms Scheerlinck said.

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Co-authoring the popular investment book, Property vs Shares.