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By Jenny Christofidis, Aitken Partners, Solicitors, Melbourne

Helping clients get the right advice and helping them achieve an outcome which is “just and equitable” lies at the heart of the administration of justice and the determination by the Family Law Courts.

However, prior to ever reaching the door step of the Family Law Courts, assisting clients in achieving such an outcome is interconnected with the clients (and the party on the other side) to be compliant with a Duty of Disclosure (“the Duty”) which is mandated by the Family Law Rules 2004 (Cth) (“the Rules”).

Such Rules are also contained in the Federal Circuit Court Rules 2001 (Cth).

Helping the clients understand their financial obligations and the mechanisms for such disclosure are effectively categorised in the three classes of disclosure:

  1. Duty of Disclosure with respect to financial cases;
  2. Duty of Disclosure of documents in “all cases” (which includes parenting matters); and
  3. The ability in certain cases to serve a request to answer specific questions.

Often the emotionally charged atmosphere of the matrimonial break up can affect a party’s ability to focus on specific issues and therefore their Duty becomes blurred and on occasions, lost.

Although the Duty might appear onerous in its terms, the Duty has temporal limits (particularly with third parties or cases involving wills, trusts, or overseas elements).

There have been many cases which involve this Duty and in particular as it affects both parties immediately within the relationship (whether married or not), and significant third parties such as other family members or business partners, where various assets or business entities interlock with the parties before the Family Law Courts.

The opportunity to assist parties in such matters can arise at various stages of the break up or whilst Family Law Court proceedings are fully entrenched.

I have had many experiences including discovery of overseas assets including foreign bank accounts, and on one occasion a whole island in the middle of the Western Pacific Ocean. Such assets can be discovered and once disclosed, change the whole focus of the Family Law Court dynamic, and can impact on achieving a final outcome that can be indeed described as “just and equitable”.

I would welcome the opportunity to assist any individual, whether an immediate party to Family Law Court proceedings or any third party effected by Family Law Court proceedings.

Contact the author directly by email or by telephone.

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