Family violence and superannuation

157. The following part of this Issues Paper deals with the treatment of family violence in superannuation law, including under the:

  • Family Law Act 1975 (Cth);

  • Superannuation Act 1976 (Cth); and

  • Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Regulations 1994 (Cth).

158. Superannuation has been described as ‘a form of long term saving and investing which aims to provide funds for people to use in their retirement’.[109]

159. The ALRC has identified a number of issues relevant to the treatment of family violence in superannuation law or family law as it relates to superannuation. Some of these arise where a victim of family violence has been coerced into taking action in respect of their own superannuation.[110]

160. Another relevant issue is that a victim of family violence may wish to seek early access to superannuation benefits in order to assist them to leave an abusive relationship or soon after leaving such a relationship. However, such victims of family violence may find that they cannot gain early access to their superannuation under the criteria for release.

[109] Senate Select Committee on Superannuation and Financial Services—Parliament of Australia, Early Access to Superannuation Benefits (2002), [1.1].

[110] The ALRC has recommended that ‘family violence’ be defined as ‘violent or threatening behaviour, or any other form of behaviour, that coerces or controls a family member or causes that family member to be fearful’. The ALRC recommended a definition that included economic abuse, which would include coercing a partner or other family member to relinquish control over assets: Australian Law Reform Commission and New South Wales Law Reform Commission, Family Violence—A National Legal Response: Final Report, ALRC Report 114; NSWLRC Report 128 (2010), Rec 5–1.