The woes of financial disclosure
I have written previously about the requirement for each party to exchange full and frank disclosure when they are involved in family law property negotiations. This includes details of your financial circumstances (including your income and expenditure), as well as your assets and liabilities.
The Court has taken a strict approach to the requirement for full and frank disclosure. There was recently a matter of Kappas v Kappas, heard by Judge Harland in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia in Melbourne, which highlights the Court’s lack of sympathy for failure to comply with requests or orders for the provision of financial disclosure.
In that matter, Judge Harland made various comments concerning the husband’s failure to disclose information, stating:
“The husband needs to appreciate – and if he is unsure, he should get independent legal advice – that there are serious consequences when parties do not meet their obligations for full and frank financial disclosure, which is a positive obligation on each of the parties.
"If the Court is satisfied that there has been deliberate non-disclosure, the Court need not be unduly worried about being generous to the other party, because it would not be possible to establish accurately what the property pool is…This Court does not conduct trials by ambush.”
In that case, the Court made orders for the husband to produce evidence specifically identifying every item that he had been ordered to produce, whether or not that item was in his possession, and produce it for the Court. The Judge then indicated that further non compliance with those orders would result in the matter being heard undefended (and without consideration of the husband’s evidence).
It is therefore important, when entering into negotiations for a division of property, and prior to any proceedings being commenced, to obtain independent legal advice about the documents to provide. If you’re experiencing difficulty in obtaining your own financial information, or are unsure as to what documents are relevant, please contact one of our family lawyers for independent legal advice: