Property settlement matters involve determining the ‘net property pool’ of the parties. This includes assets, liabilities and financial resources acquired before, during or after the relationship. The first step in establishing the net property pool is for the parties to share documents by way of disclosure.
Disclosure is the process of enabling the other party to see all the relevant financial and other information that may be relevant to have a clear understanding of the net property pool that is available to be divided between the parties. This includes the parties direct and indirect financial circumstances.
Pursuant to Rule 6.01 of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Family Law) Rules 2021, parties have an ongoing duty to provide full and frank disclosure of such information that has come into their possession, power or control. This obligation commences at the start of negotiations and continues until the matter is finalised. To this end, standard documents that are required to be disclosed include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Bank statements;
- Superannuation statements;
- Taxation returns and assessments;
- Payslips; and
- Mortgage statements.
The duty of disclosure extends to providing the other party with evidence of property that may have been disposed since separation, for instance if you were to sell a motor vehicle.
If a party fails to disclose documents, then they may be subjected to penalties from the Court. Such penalties may include a cost order against them in favour of the other party, an order of a fine or being found guilty of contempt of court, or an order to receive a smaller percentage of the asset pool.
The ongoing obligation of collating and distributing disclosure can be a timely task. Nevertheless, the obligation is a crucial procedure in order for the matter to progress without further delay, and to prevent the need for expensive and protracted litigation.
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