We get a lot of questions about Family Law, but one of the most important ones we answer and educate about, relates to the duty of disclosure.
Whether you are dealing with children matters, property proceedings, relocation, injunctions or recovery orders, it is imperative for all Family Law clients to understand their responsibilities in relation to the duty of disclosure.
What is the duty of disclosure?
Simply put, the duty of disclosure is each party’s duty to provide all information and documents relevant to the case to the other party.
Information must be provided to the other party in a timely manner. If circumstances change (including financial circumstances), it is your responsibility to ensure that updated information/documents are provided, again in a timely manner. The duty of disclosure begins with the pre-action procedure (negotiation phase) and must be followed until the end of your case.
Why is the duty of disclosure important?
The Duty of Disclosure is very important. Failing to disclose can lead to exclusion of documents/evidence not disclosed, the case could be delayed and part or all of your case could be dismissed.
Another serious consequence of non-disclosure is that it may lead to previous Orders and/ or judgments by the Family Court being set aside.
Punishment for not disclosing all relevant documents can also lead to the offending party being charged with contempt of court (which may involve you being fined or imprisoned), which is why it is vital to ensure all necessary documents are produced.
What documents are required?
This will depend on the type of case being heard, so it is imperative to discuss requirements with your family lawyer.
Some documents that you might need to produce include: recent pay slips, tax returns, bank statements, superannuation statements, market appraisal of property and (if you run a business) business-related documents, such as business activity statements. Please note, this list is not exhaustive, so additional documents may be required. Check with your family lawyer about the documentation required to be produced for your specific case.
Original documents may be requested for inspection.
Documents/information provided must only be used solely for the intent of the case – and copies or content of documents must not be given or disclosed to anyone without permission from the court.
You will be asked to sign an ‘undertaking’, which on signing acknowledges that you are aware of the duty of disclosure that you must provide all information relevant to the case. Please check with your Family Lawyer if you do not understand the undertaking before you sign it.
Where can I find out more information?
The Family Court of Western Australia has produced an easy-to-understand brochure about the duty of disclosure in Family Law Cases, which is available for download via their website: http://www.familycourt.wa.gov.au
To understand duty of disclosure in more detail, we suggest carefully reading Chapter 13 of the Family Law Rules.
We strongly advise discussing any questions or concerns about duty of disclosure in your family law case with your Perth Family Lawyer. At WN Legal, we are lawyers dealing specifically family law, so give us a call on 08 9349 2196 or visit our website, https://www.wnlegal.com.au/