It is not unusual for separated couples in conflict to object to producing a lot of their own personal financial documents for disclosure to their ex-partner as part of any property settlement proceeding after separation.
Often, parties are so upset with the emotional breakdown of the relationship that they do not see the relevance nor do they feel inclined to provide detailed and particular disclosure of their financial affairs to their ex-spouse.
However, the law is not sympathetic to such a view.
Each party, after separating, has an obligation (the obligation continues until Orders are made) to provide full and frank disclosure of all of their financial assets, liabilities and resources.
In some cases, people attempt to hide assets and are not honest in their disclosure as to their true financial position. This may involve non-disclosure of a bank account, or not complying with Court directions, or requests of disclosure by the other party's legal representatives.
A recent case highlights some of the ramifications that can fall upon a party who acts in such a manner.
In this case, the net matrimonial assets were close to $6,000,000.00. Under cross-examination, the Husband was found to not have included certain monies in his sworn Financial Statement and had previously failed to provide disclosure in a timely fashion.
The Judge made comments in the Judgement and specifically said that the case involved persistent and continuing inadequate disclosure by the Husband and also false and misleading disclosure.
The Court made a considerable adjustment of 8% in favour of the Wife principally because of the behaviour of the Husband in relation to disclosure. The Husband appealed and the Full Court of the Family Court dismissed the Appeal. The Full Court said that the Trial Judge was quite entitled to make such an adjustment and that if the Husband had complied punctually with his obligations and made proper financial disclosure then it could have been argued that the further 8% adjustment was too high. However, in the circumstances invoving specific non-disclosure and conduct by the Husband, the Court dismissed the Appeal.
This case illustrates the importance of disclosure being done properly, thoroughly and accurately. Too often, we see inadequate documents put together which do not accurately reflect a party's current financial position.
While a party may have a view that the other party should not know about their financial affairs, that is a view that can get a party into serious trouble in any subsequent Court proceeding.
Disclosure has to be given. It muct be detailed, accurate, and truthful.
A good family lawyer will not only ensure that proper and detailed disclosure is obtained from the other party, but they will also make sure that their client is educated about their obligations and comlies fully with the obligations of disclosure.