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Duty of Disclosure

A recent divorce of an Australian high society couple became “ugly” when it was revealed the former wife mislead her Husband over the value of her “international luxury designer clothes collection”.  

The Wife valued her couture collection at NIL when the couple signed off on a division of their property. The Husband disputed the value in Court, and gave evidence that the items were actually worth $1.2 million. The Judge accepted this, and agreed to the Husband’s request to have the earlier division of their property set aside.  

Both parties were required to file an affidavit to the Court, detailing the value of their property. The Husband claimed that the Wife had $3 million dollars’ worth of property, including $1 million dollars’ worth in handbags, and $1,162,000 in designer clothes, not including coats and exotic furs worth $625,000 and a $162,000 shoe collection. The Wife said all of these items were worth $168,312. 

The Husband gave evidence of an earlier auction where some of the items were sold which justified his values. The Judge said that the Wife’s claim that these designer items were worth nothing was potentially “misleading the Court” and rejected her application.  

In family law proceedings, each party has an obligation to make full and frank disclosure of all their property and their values. The duty of disclosure requires all parties to provide to each party all information relevant to any issue in the case.  

In financial cases, this includes disclosing all sources of earnings, interest, property, and any other financial resources. 

 Your obligation for financial disclosure applies whether you are filing an application in Court or finalizing your property settlement by way of Financial Agreement.  

If you fail to comply with your duty of disclosure, the Court may: 

  • Refuse to give you permission to use that information or document as evidence in your case; 

  • Stay or dismiss all or part of your case 

  • Order costs against you  

  • Fine or imprison you on being found guilty or contempt of court for not disclosing the document or for breaching your undertaking.  

If you fail to comply with your duty of disclosure in your Financial Agreement, the validity of the Financial Agreement may be challenged, and the Financial Agreement may be set aside by the Court.  

Any property which has a significant value needs to be disclosed to the other party and if you are unsure whether something needs to be disclosed, or has a value, it is best to err on the side of caution.  


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