By Danielle Sturgeon, Senior Associate.
With busy lives and a lot to organise, we often delegate management of parts of our life where we can, particularly within a relationship. This seems to be especially true when it comes to managing the family finances.
When a relationship ends, it’s not uncommon for one party to know more about the finances than the other, or for each party to know more about different aspects of the finances.
As a result, it’s necessary for a separated couple to share financial information, so that each party has the full picture about their finances before making decisions about a family law settlement.
In family law, all parties are under a duty of disclosure when engaging in negotiations with their ex-partner, even if there are no court proceedings. This means that each party must provide relevant financial documents to the other party.
The obligation to provide documents includes documents that the other party may not know about. Parties are not permitted to strategically withhold documents or information from each other.
Documents are routinely exchanged to:
- Identify the current values of assets and liabilities in each party’s name
- Show how those assets and liabilities came about
- Prove, or disprove, different claims by the parties about matters that are relevant to the division of assets.
Common documents exchanged in family law negotiations include tax returns, pay slips, bank account statements and superannuation member statements. However, there may be other documents you are obliged to disclose, or that you can request the other party to disclose, if those documents are relevant.
The duty of disclosure is an ongoing obligation. Both parties need to update their financial disclosure until the conclusion of their negotiations or court proceedings if their financial circumstances change or if more relevant documents are created.
If a party denies the existence of documents or refuses to disclose relevant documents or information during negotiations, there are court processes available to compel the production of documents, directed at both the refusing party and third parties who may hold the information.
Disclosure is a complex area of law and how it applies to your circumstance may be different than how it applies to a friend or family member. We can advise how the duty of disclosure applies in your circumstance and what options are available to you if your ex-partner does not provide you with required information.