WA paves way for super division when de factos part

By Melissa Coade

April 7, 2022

John Quigley
WA attorney general John Quigley. (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright)

A fairer division of assets will be made possible for couples experiencing a breakup thanks to new laws in Western Australia that will allow for the superannuation to be split, just like the rest of the nation.

The state’s attorney-general, John Quigley, issued a statement explaining the Family Court of Western Australia was currently unable to make an order to divide superannuation assets for de facto couples who had split. In other parts of the country, or in the case of married couples, this type of order is possible.

There are more than 200,000 people in WA who are in de facto relationships.

“Married couples who divorce, and de facto couples who separate in the rest of Australia, must treat superannuation like any other financial asset during contested settlements.

“But outdated arrangements in WA mean a superannuation nest egg cannot be split among de facto partners calling it quits,” Quigley said. 

Superannuation is the biggest asset for a couple, according to the state government, and the rule affecting de facto relationships has disproportionately disadvantaged women, who retire on average with half the superannuation of men. 

“This can create severe injustices where there are not enough other assets to help make a fair division of property between the splitting de facto partners and women are overwhelmingly disadvantaged in these circumstances,” the A-G said. 

The federal government needed to enact enabling legislation before WA was able to make the legislative reforms needed to allow this kind of order to be applicable to separating de facto couples. 

Years of negotiations spanning as far back as 2006 saw a tussle over which jurisdiction should have powers over de facto relationships but the state government said they had finally been able to achieve ‘a narrow referral of legislative power’ to make this now possible.

Quigley said he had made it a personal priority to correct the law when he took office.

“Following lengthy negotiations, the Commonwealth government agreed to change their laws to accommodate de facto couples in WA and I am delighted to be the attorney-general to bring this important change to Western Australia,” he said.


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