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Identifying superannuation assets in property settlement proceedings

There is an obligation on parties to disclose all relevant information about their superannuation entitlements for consideration in family law property settlements. When the name of a spouse’s fund is known, a confidential application seeking relevant information about the member spouse’s entitlement and its value can be made to the fund trustee by either the member or their spouse.  Sometimes however spouses forget the whereabouts of their superannuation entitlements or deliberately avoid giving disclosure.

The Government recently released for consultation an exposure draft legislation and explanatory material that amends the Taxation Administration Act 1953 and the Family Law Act 1975.  Its purpose is to facilitate the identification and value of superannuation assets by parties to family law proceedings and leverage information held by the Australian Tax Office (ATO).  Unfortunately, the process will not be available for those matters where court proceedings have not yet been commenced.

The exposure draft legislation provides for a party to family law property proceedings in the Family Court of Australia, Federal Circuit Court of Australia and Family Court of Western Australia to apply to the court to request information about the identity and value of their former partner’s superannuation assets from the ATO.   The exposure draft legislation will also authorise the ATO to disclose this superannuation information to court registry staff for the purpose of relevant family law proceedings.

The new information-sharing process should make it harder for parties to hide or under-disclose their superannuation assets in family law proceedings, and hopefully reduce the time, cost and complexity for parties seeking accurate superannuation.

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