When your relationship ends, it is normal to feel a rollercoaster of emotions. Common emotions can include anger, fear, grief, resentment, relief, happiness and a new sense of optimism for the future. You can ebb and flow between your emotions throughout the separation process. The legal process involved when a relationship breaks down can be even more bewildering when you are experiencing that rollercoaster of emotions.
One of the very first steps you need to take if you have separated, and you need to resolve your property/financial arrangements is to make full and frank financial disclosure to your ex-partner. This duty to make full and frank financial disclosure applies if you are resolving your property/financial arrangements by consent or if you find yourself in Court because you cannot agree with your ex-partner as to how your property should be split.
What does full and frank financial disclosure mean?
All parties that are involved in family law disputes must make full and frank financial disclosure to each other. They have a duty and obligation to make disclosure, and to continue to make disclosure to each other. Your obligation to make full and frank financial disclosure starts even before you are in Court, and it continues until your matter has resolved (either by consent or because the Judge has heard all the evidence and has reached a decision). This obligation covers your direct and indirect financial circumstances.
That means that along the way, and until your matter has resolved, you must continue to provide the other party:
- Information regarding your financial circumstances (for example, this may include if you are made redundant or if you have received an inheritance).
- Any financial documents that have been created or come into your possession (for example, tax statements, notice of assessments and bank statements).
Rule 13.04 of the Family Law Rules (2004) Cth sets out what the obligation is and what type of information and documents are covered.
It can be quite time consuming and overwhelming to start collating the financial documents and information regarding your financial circumstances. It is often the hardest step that people have to take when they start the legal process in resolving their financial relationship with their ex-partner.
What happens if you or the other party refuses to make full and frank financial disclosure?
There can be severe consequences if you do not comply with your obligation to make full and frank financial disclosure. These consequences can include the Judge not allowing you to rely on certain documents or information for your case, a cost order being made against you, dismissing part or all of your case, issuing you a fine or even imprisonment if it is demonstrated that you are in contempt of Court.
If the other party suspects that you have not made disclosure, they are likely to issue correspondence and/or subpoenas to certain agencies or companies to enable documents to be produced to the Court directly. This can increase the expenses associated with your matter and prolong your matter ultimately resolving.
If you suspect that the other party have not made full and frank financial disclosure, you should obtain legal advice as soon as possible.