The Duty of Full and Frank Financial Disclosure: An Essential Aspect of Family Law

by | Feb 16, 2024 | Blog, Divorce

When it comes to family law, one of the most critical responsibilities for both parties involved is the duty of full and frank financial disclosure. However, despite its significance, many individuals and even some practitioners are unaware of the precise requirements of this duty. This article aims to shed light on the duty of full and frank financial disclosure and its implications in property cases under the Family Law Act (Cth) 1975.

What Are The Origins Of Duty Of Disclosure?

The duty of full and frank financial disclosure originates from three main sources: the Family Law Rules (Cth) 2004, the Federal Magistrates Court Rules (Cth) 2012, and case law. These sources collectively outline the obligations and expectations placed on individuals involved in family law property cases.

Understanding the Duty of Disclosure in Family Law Matters

At its core, the duty requires each party to make comprehensive and transparent disclosures regarding their financial circumstances. Rule 13.04 of the Family Law Rules (Cth) 2004 specifies that parties must disclose their financial circumstances fully and frankly. This includes information on earnings, property interests, income from legal entities, financial resources, property disposals, and liabilities.

However, the duty goes beyond mere compliance with the rules. It is a positive and absolute obligation that demands parties to go above and beyond the minimum requirements. It necessitates providing evidence supporting the value of disclosed assets rather than mere identification. Parties must be proactive in their disclosure, volunteering relevant information without waiting to be asked. Moreover, being prompt and efficient in providing financial disclosure is vital for the early resolution of disputes.

The Consequences of Non-Disclosure

The duty of full and frank financial disclosure is absolute, and non-compliance can have significant repercussions. While non-disclosure is not a criminal offence, the court can draw poor inferences against the party at fault. The court may conclude that the undisclosed assets exceed what has been demonstrated, potentially leading to an adjustment of the asset pool.

The Four-Step Process

To comprehend the rationale behind the duty, it is essential to understand the four-step process followed in property settlement cases under family law. This process involves:

  1. Identifying and valuing the assets.
  2. Assessing contributions made by each party.
  3. Adjusting for differing means and needs, if necessary.
  4. Determining a just and equitable order based on the findings.

Full and frank financial disclosure plays a crucial role in the first step, as it helps accurately establish the pool of assets and their values. The court can proceed with subsequent steps based on accurate and transparent data by ensuring both parties disclose their financial information comprehensively.

A Final Note

The duty of full and frank financial disclosure is an essential aspect of family law, specifically in property cases. It is binding upon all parties involved to provide comprehensive and transparent information regarding their financial circumstances. Failure to fulfil this duty can have serious consequences, including harmful assumptions and adjustments to the asset pool.

As a family law firm based in Melbourne, we understand the complexities of financial disclosure and its implications in property cases. We are committed to guiding our clients through this process, ensuring compliance with the duty while striving for fair and equitable outcomes.