If you are anything like me, and like most people, your memory is not perfect. You may remember birthdays but forget how much you paid for a couch, or you may be really good at remembering when you moved into your first house, but you can’t remember which bank you got the loan from.
That’s why documents are KING! It is very difficult to argue with a document.
To make sure you have the best chance of reaching an amicable agreement for your property settlement I always tell my clients to get together as many documents as possible. Some people don’t like to hear this, as they don’t like to provide this information, they think it could make their case worse or it’s just too much hard work trying to track it all down. But in my experience the earlier you provide as many documents as possible, the more likely you will avoid going to Court.
When you are negotiating an amicable divorce or separation, your best bet it to start getting together all your financial documents that show all the financial things that occurred before, during and after your marriage or relationship. For example, your tax returns and the Notice of Assessment issued from the Australian Tax Office will show what your income was and your bank statements and credit cards will show what you have spent.
One of the first things you will be asked for when you see a Family Lawyer, or if you receive a letter from a Family Lawyer that your ex-partner has seen, are financial documents. These are usually – your last three tax returns and notices of assessment, bank statements for all accounts and loans for the previous 12 months, superannuation statements and other documents setting out what assets you have and if possible what those assets are worth. If there is a business involved, it can get even more complex however, it is worth the effort up front to find the information.
It is just not worth trying to “fudge” the documents or not produce them. If the other side does not get satisfactory “disclosure” they can apply to the Family Court of Western Australia, if you are living in Western Australia, for a Family Court property settlement. During that process, you will be required to produce all your financial documents, so if you provide everything as soon as possible you may avoid going to Court and get an amicable settlement.
You are not required to hand over your original documents. The quickest and easiest way to assist the settlement process is to provide copies of all documents when asked.
I really believe if you get legal advice early on about what you are expected to provide and how the process of disclosure of documents works, you can save thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees by assisting in reaching an amicable agreement, rather than going to Court.
If you need more information about the disclosure of documents and the separation and divorce process Leach Legal provides a no-obligation initial consultation.
Whatever way you go, just make sure you understand the process you are going through.
Good luck, and be prepared!