What financial information am I obligated to disclose?

The Family Law Rules contain the requirement as to full and frank disclosure of financial information that is necessary in property and maintenance proceedings. The parties involved in the case must provide all information that is relevant. Such obligation is ongoing and if such financials change from the initial stages of disclosure during the course of the case then the party must provide updated data to the other party.

discloseWhy disclose?

The reason for such rules is the underlying issue of fairness. One party must not be disadvantaged by deceit of the other party. Each party must be able to understand the financial position of the other party of parties to the case. There must be no issue that one party will take advantage of the other.

Categories of Disclosure

The Family Law Rules identify 3 categories of disclosure:

  • Financial Circumstances
  • Production of documents
  • Answering specific questions that may be required

Financial Circumstances

The financial circumstances may include:

  • Earnings
  • Any interest in property even if owned by an entity such as a trust, a partnership, a company or a joint venture business or other commercial activity
  • Financial resources
  • An interest of which the person or a child or a spouse or a de facto partner is an eligible beneficiary as to the capital or the income of such entity
  • If a party has any direct or indirect power or control over such property or income stream
  • If a party has disposed of property such as by sale, transfer, assignment or gift without the consent of the other party
  • If the property existed in the 12 months immediately before the separation of the parties
  • If the property was acquired since the separation of the parties

Duty to disclose documents

The duty of disclosure applies to each document that:

  • Is or has been in the possession or under the control of the party required to make the disclosure
  • Is relevant to an issue in the case

What happens if there is a failure to disclose?

Failure to make such disclosure as is required can produce the following possible outcomes:

  • The document cannot be used in the court proceedings without the consent of the other party or the court
  • The party failing to make this disclosure may be found guilty of contempt of court and subject to punishment such as receiving a goal sentence
  • The party who has failed to make the disclosure may be required to pay legal costs of the party to whom the disclosure should have been made
  • The court may make orders that could include dismissal of the case of the party who has failed to make the disclosure

Final word

Do not fail to produce documents and financial information as is required. It is far easier to achieve an outcome in a quick and decisive manner without incurring unnecessary legal costs and causing delays once you play by the rules.
With modern technology and forensic analysis of the balance sheets it is often a relatively simple task to issue a subpoena to a taxation office or a bank, whether in Australia or overseas, to arrange production of material.

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