In family law, “full and frank disclosure” is a fundamental principle that underscores the legal process. It mandates that all parties involved must openly divulge any and all relevant information pertaining to their family law case. 

This encompasses financial details and extends to any other facts that could impact the outcome of the matter. Full and frank disclosure forms the cornerstone of transparency and fairness in family law proceedings, ensuring that all parties are equipped with the necessary information to make informed decisions and achieve equitable resolutions.

New duty of disclosure directions

The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia was established on 1 September 2021 by the merger of the Federal Circuit Court and the Family Court. Disclosure in family law issues is addressed in Chapter 6 of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia Rules 2021 (the Rules).

Under the new rules, parties are now required to promptly provide each other with any pertinent paperwork on their financial circumstances, including parenting matters during family law court proceedings and negotiations. 

The primary objective of the duty of disclosure is to help ensure that parties focus on genuine issues and to reduce costs.

Duty of disclosure obligations

In order to fulfil your duty of providing full and frank disclosure in a family law matter, you must ensure that you have given the Court all the relevant information and documents for them to make a decision. Disclosure includes anything having to do with the financial situations of the parties, such as:

  1. Companies either solely or partly owned.
  2. Bank accounts;
  3. Credit cards;
  4. Properties either solely or partly owned; and
  5. Payslips and earnings received;
  6. Superannuation;
  7. Tax returns; and
  8. Shared portfolios.

Disclosure can also involve being obligated to provide details such as the following:

  1. Family trusts or the details of a trust a party is a beneficiary of;
  2. Financial resources; and
  3. Shares in a unit trust.

What makes the duty of disclosure important?

To avoid unintended harm to any party, the duty of disclosure mandates that all parties be compensated in Court Orders and orders and that all parties be informed about the asset pool.

When does my duty of disclosure commence?

You are obligated to disclose certain information at all times during the family law proceedings. It commences when the parties begin negotiations prior to initiating any court actions and continues until the outcome of those procedures is announced.

In most cases, you can expect requests to turn over documents and/or information at the beginning and pivotal points in the process. However, you should disclose quickly if your assets or parenting arrangements change significantly (for example, if you buy a house, car, or boat or if problems arise at the children’ schools).

What is an “undertaking as to disclosure”?

In the event that your case gets considered by the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia  (the Court), you are required to submit a disclosure undertaking. Thus, you have acknowledged your obligation to disclose information to the Court and have, to the best of your knowledge and ability, fulfilled that obligation.

What if I know my former partner has not disclosed everything?

At any time during your matter, you can ask another party:

  1. to update previously provided figures that have changed;
  2. to disclose information or documents about the proceedings of which you are aware; or
  3. to provide information about a specific asset.

It is possible to obtain documents or testimony from an individual by submitting a subpoena in the event that a party fails to provide the required disclosure during court proceedings.

Any application or court order that fails to disclose relevant financial information may be thrown aside by the court.

Lawyers’ obligations

Attorneys are required by the Court to ensure their clients fulfill their duty to provide full and frank disclosure. Your lawyer is required to take necessary action, which may include withdrawing representation, if you fail to provide full and frank information pertinent to the proceedings.

My matter only relates to parenting. Why do I need to provide disclosure?

In all cases, including those involving parenting, full and frank disclosure is required. Although specific documents are not required in parenting matters, you are required to submit any records that are pertinent to the issue at hand.

This could encompass, among other things:

  1. A child’s medical reports;
  2. Letters and communications from a child;
  3. School reports;
  4. Information related to family violence including intervention orders; and
  5. A party’s criminal records.

Can I object to something requested in the disclosure?

Disclosure requests cannot be made in a general manner. Any request for the release of documents must have an impact on the subject matter of the family law matter.

You have the right to ask for clarification on the relevance of a request and even object to it if you feel it is deliberately meant to cause you unnecessary stress or delay.

What if I don’t provide full and frank disclosure?

In the event that the Court determines that you have not provided full and frank disclosure or that you have”

  1. Suppressed disclosure;
  2. Attempted to hide an asset;
  3. Withheld disclosure;
  4. Doctored disclosure; or
  5. Attempted to dispose of assets

Among the serious consequences are cost orders against you, fines, and, in worst-case scenarios, imprisonment.

Navigate Family Law with Confidence: Achieve Full and Frank Disclosure with Quill Legal

Do you require assistance with your family law matter? At Quill Legal, we understand the critical importance of full and frank disclosure in achieving fair and just outcomes. Thus, we will help guide you through the process with expertise and care. Let our experienced team assist you in navigating this essential aspect of family law proceedings. Contact us today at 02 8999 3743 for a free consultation and let’s protect your interests together. Don’t risk serious implications – rely on Quill Legal for comprehensive legal support tailored to your unique needs.

About Quill Legal

At Quill Legal we innovate, educate, and plan to evoke excellence and confidence. Our principal solicitor, Shams, and his team are focused on delivering an honest, first-class service. With Quill legal by your side, you have lawyers who will passionately listen, advise and advocate your rights from start to finish.

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