Legislation Update: Superannuation Split in WA Defacto Relationships

Superannuation Split in WA Defacto Relationships

Last week we heard the announcement that Attorney General John Quigley has, after much anticipation, introduced legislation into the state parliament to remedy WA’s “odd one out” stance on excluding superannuation from asset divisions following the separation of a de facto relationship.

Across the state, Lawyers and clients alike are celebrating this milestone which means we will come in line with the rest of the country who have allowed super splitting for defacto couples since 2008.

Women leaving long-term de facto relationships can find themselves significantly disadvantaged due to often being out of the workforce for extended periods of time or working part-time to care for children. “The difference this legislative change will make in people’s lives is monumental,” notes Leach Legal Managing Director, Catherine Leach.

However, any optimism regarding the impact this will have on many of her clients is tempered by the reality of our legal system. We should not be counting our chickens before the legislation surrounding our super nest eggs has “hatched”.

The first hurdle for this legislation is that it must be debated, and then passed in the lower house - where it is planned to be presented next month on May 10th.  It must then be read and debated in the Upper House, which is unlikely to occur until later this year.  Leach shares that her team is “mindful to manage expectations with our clients as there is a very real likelihood that there will be further delay, only just having passed the first hurdle.”

Once the legislation is passed, it remains to be seen whether this will in fact be applied retrospectively and if so, for what timeframe. “Some clients currently in mediation may find this disrupts progress they have already made in splitting existing assets” Leach explains.

“Additionally, there is always a chance that cases could be run where a settled dispute is sought to be reopened due to this change in circumstances.  If one of these cases succeeds it could open a legal Pandora’s Box for many settled couples across the state.”

As with the majority of changes to legislation, despite the legislation passing, the reality of the legislation in practice is determined by how Judges will apply it to make their decisions. It is only once a precedent has been set that we will see how this is interpreted and applied. “We may still be many years off seeing that play out in our Family Court” warns Leach.

For a professional opinion on how this change could impact your personal situation, book a 15-minute consult with Leach Legal here.