When we first meet a new client to discuss a family law property dispute their focus may be to retain legal ownership of their property, pursue a claim for an equitable interest in property or the goings-on of their former spouse or partner. However, a client’s best strategy in the beginning may be to focus on their own financial affairs.
From the outset we require information and documentation that clearly sets out the full extent of our client’s financial affairs. We make this request as our clients have an obligation under the Family Law Rules to make full and frank disclosure of their financial circumstances by exchanging information and documentation. The obligation is mutual and applies to both parties.
We find that full and frank disclosure from the outset assists us in resolving our client’s dispute more quickly and cost effectively, and allows us to be sufficiently equipped to work with them to identify the asset pool and issues that need to be addressed to obtain the best outcome in their circumstances.
It is not uncommon for a person to be hesitant to reveal information or provide documentation that they feel is personal and/or does not shed the best light on their situation. It might be of some comfort to know that we sometimes find this kind of information and documentation once disclosed may not be central to issues in dispute, nor be the focus of the court when determining a dispute. It is important to be guided by your lawyer in this regard, from the beginning.
On the other hand, the non-disclosure of relevant information and documentation will inevitably become a focus of family lawyers and/or the Court and the non-disclosure will unavoidably cost a party their best possible outcome. If it can be established that there has been deliberate non-disclosure by a party, the Court will not hesitate to make a finding in favour of the innocent party and the non-disclosing party’s credibility is ultimately affected.
As a matter of practice, we require our client’s disclosure at the earliest opportunity so that any issues can be dealt with straight away. It is important to note and may offer some comfort, that a party to a proceeding must not disseminate information and documentation disclosed in the court proceedings to the public. The information and documentation can only be used to find a resolution or determination of the property dispute.
We ask that our clients have relevant information and source documentation at hand in the beginning to be disclosed to their former spouse or partner in order to assist in resolving their property dispute, and to assist us in obtaining the best possible outcome in the circumstances.
For example, some relevant documents include:
- Pay slips;
- Tax returns;
- Financial statements;
- Market appraisals;
- Member statements for super;
If you have any further questions related to commencing your family law matter, contact our team of specialist family lawyers on (03) 9670 5711 or alternately you can send an email firstname.lastname@example.org