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New precedent on property settlement involving veterans

“Christopher” was a veteran who was dependant on an invalidity pension from the Military Superannuation and Benefits Scheme (MSBS). 

Christopher had been involved in family law property-proceedings before the Federal Circuit Court, and complications arose when the Trustee for MSBS reported that his pension was a defined benefit interest in calculating his splittable superannuation interest under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth). 

Christopher lodged a complaint about the trustee’s decision to the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal; however the Tribunal withdrew his complaint, describing it as ‘misconceived’.  Christopher later approached QPILCH’s Self Representation Service for assistance after commencing proceedings in the Federal Court seeking a review of the Tribunal’s decision. 

Over a series of appointments, Service staff helped Christopher to begin drafting his submissions and to articulate a question of law.  Following the hearing of Christopher’s matter, the Federal Court granted leave for the parties to file further submissions on the issue of whether a military invalidity benefit constituted a defined benefit interest under the Family Law Act 1975.  

Through a request from QPILCH’s Referrals Service Matthew Taylor of counsel prepared further submissions on Christopher’s behalf. 

The Federal Court subsequently found that errors of law had been made by the Tribunal in withdrawing Christopher’s complaint and that military invalidity payments did not constitute a defined benefit interest under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth).  There being no prior decisions made on this issue, the judgment of the Federal Court sets a new precedent for the way property settlement cases involving veterans invalidity pensions are decided.