Cards on the table: The first step in splitting the matrimonial/joint property after separation

When clients who are going through a separation first arrive at our offices, they usually have a percentage figure in mind, but a formal offer is one of the last steps in a property settlement.

Actually, there are 5 steps to splitting the property of couples, but we will just focus on the first in this article.  The first step is identifying the assets and liabilities of both parties.  This step is often referred to as the disclosure stage, and is in effect both parties putting their cards on the table.

Lawyers will rarely advise you of possible percentage figures or potential offers until disclosure has been completed by both parties.  In fact, if your case progresses to Court the Family Law Rules say that all parties must provide ‘full and frank disclosure’.

Before making an offer, the most common documents asked from both parties are:

  • Statements from all your bank accounts for the previous 12 months;
  • market appraisals of your house and mortgage statements;
  • Details of any stock you own;
  • Valuations of your car;
  • Statements from any outstanding loans;
  • Trust Statements;
  • Centrelink payments;
  • Payslips;
  • Superannuation Statements.

You can read the full list of the disclosure the Court considers relevant here

This process can be slow, but it allows the parties to agree on the property pool at the time of separation, and also allows us to examine your ex-partners statements for any suspicious activity.

Often our clients are not aware of all of the finances of the relationship, and full disclosure allows us to identify money that is being transferred into secret accounts, or assets that have been sold off so as to avoid those things coming into the property pool.  You are not allowed to, for example, gift everything you own to your mother, and then have it gifted back to you later.  A court can stop or reverse such transactions.

There are also penalties for not disclosing documents.  These range from being found guilty of contempt, to having your entire case thrown out by the Judge.

Understanding the rules of disclosure and beginning a property case is complex.  You should always get legal advice.  Call Ruth Single, Specialist Family Lawyer on 02 4324 7699 for a free confidential chat on the phone. For more information visit www.familylawgosford.com.au