When a husband wasn’t truthful about what debts he had, among other things claiming he owed his parents $192,000 and wouldn’t explain where $886,000 had gone, his failure to be open and honest was a big factor when the Family Court made orders for property settlement. How important is it for parties to fully and honestly disclose their assets and liabilities?

Businessman in a suit holding his hands behind his back with stack of dollar banknotes in one and fingers crossed on another one

Disclosure in property settlement

Identifying the property pool

Property settlement is the division of assets and liabilities between spouses or de facto partners following separation.  But what does this actually mean?  What are the “assets and liabilities” of the relationship? Can former spouses or partners claim on everything owned by the other or what is included?  What about family trusts, companies, businesses, or even inheritances that one party has received?

While specific legal advice should be sought from an experienced family law lawyer for each individual situation, the Court’s usual first step is to identity what assets and debts actually exist.  This is regardless of whose name they are in or even if it’s the name of a company or trust operated by one of the parties.  This process is performed to identify what forms the property pool available for division.  Once the property pool is identified specific legal arguments can be made to determine which item, or how much of an item, should be considered an asset or liability of the relationship and available for division between the parties.

This determination of the property pool can be a complicated procedure and requires both parties to be truthful about what interests they own and owe.  This is called providing ‘full and frank disclosure’ (‘disclosure’).

Full and frank disclosure will allow both parties to see exactly their net worth, and allows their lawyers to advise on what is an appropriate outcome for their property settlement.  This in turn usually allows negotiations and offers to be made in an attempt to resolve the case, if both parties are prepared to negotiate.

Complications with disclosure

Parties are required by the Family Law Rules to provide each other with full and frank disclosure, but of course there can be situations when one party refuses or fails to provide all the relevant information.

Not providing full and frank disclosure can have significant implications on determining the value of the property pool, and accordingly the parties’ entitlements.   For example, one party might not disclose an asset - such as a significant bank account - and it could mean that party is retaining more of the asset pool.  This failure to provide information or ‘disclosure’ is also a failure to comply with the Court Rules and serious penalties apply.

A failure to comply with disclosure can also have implications with a party’s credibility at Trial and convincing the Court that a certain debt or asset exists.  This occurred in the decision of Surridge & Surridge.  In this case the Court considered whether Mr Surridge had failed with his duty to provide disclosure.  Mr Surridge said that he had certain debts owed to other persons including his parents, and also claimed he had spent some of the matrimonial monies on expenses.  These debts and spending were not fully supported by evidence or could not be explained by Mr Surridge to the Court satisfactorily.  The amount allegedly spent by Mr Surridge was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, possibly millions, but it was difficult for the Court to make any finding on the exact amount given Mr Surridge’s insufficient explanations and lack of evidence.  These missing monies were still considered substantial in Mr and Mrs Surridge’s property settlement matter and represented a significant portion of what would have been the value of the property pool and available to divide between them.

Mrs Surridge was alleging the husband had spent the missing monies to benefit himself, but could not prove it due to Mr Surridge’s non-disclosure.  Mr Surridge could not prove the debts he had allegedly paid due to lack of evidence. The Court was in a tricky situation in determining the value of the property because of the missing monies allegedly spent by Mr Surridge.

In this case the Court determined that Mr Surridge’s non-disclosure and dishonesty was a fact or circumstance that compelled it to consider the ‘justice of the case’. This is a specific provision under the Family Law Act that allows the Court to consider additional circumstances to determine whether the final outcome is truly just.  The Court considered that due to the husband’s non-disclosure it would not be “unduly cautious” in making findings that were favourable to Mrs Surridge who had complied with the disclosure obligations.  In other words, the Court can make findings that are more favourable to the party who has complied with disclosure and this can in effect increase the amount that complying party is to receive overall from property settlement.

The Court in this case granted a large adjustment to Mrs Surridge of approximately $750,000 of the known property pool, that is the property pool without the missing monies, so that she received net assets of over $2.2 million.  By comparison Mr Surridge was to receive less than $800,000.  There were other factors considered by the Court in making this adjustment, however the key message is that non-disclosure can and has resulted in orders adverse to the non-disclosing party.  Had Mr Surridge made full disclosure he could have had certain legal arguments available to him that may have persuaded the Court to give him more than what he ultimately was granted by the Court in the current case.

If court proceedings are already afoot and non-disclosure is an issue, parties to the proceedings can seek a Subpoena to produce documents.  Subpoenas are orders of the Court compelling the production of information or documents from third parties.  Subpoenas are another option available to address issues of non-disclosure and obtaining legal advice is vital to lodging a valid Subpoena that seeks the information you are seeking.

You can read the Family Court’s information and brochures on your duty of disclosure here.

Our family law lawyers at Websters Lawyers can help you with all aspects of property settlement including ensuring all parties comply with their disclosure obligations. We can also provide you with advice on arguments that could be used to include or exclude assets or liabilities into the property pool available for division between the parties.

Surridge & Surridge [2017] FamCAFC 10





call now

*Conditions Apply


Having such a short time frame I was very impressed with the outcome made by [my solicitor]. Excellent and timely manner


Kurralta Park

Very professional mannerism and overall great outcome was delivered by Websters Lawyers.


West Ryde NSW

Helpful, explained fully, patient, excellent service.



Patient and helpful in explaining the process.



Call Websters Lawyers for a most professional and friendly service. All understanding with [my solicitors] and the reception staff. Thank you so much.



Making my will was effortless on my part, with everything explained clearly. Well done to all.



Great service, professional, explains things clearly, definitely recommend Websters Lawyers.


Upper Hermitage

Patient, professional, good communication about procedures and probable outcomes.



Thank you for all your work over the course of the case. You [both] were always very approachable and I appreciated your understanding and professionalism in all areas.


Christie Downs

All in all my experience was great. Thank you for your time and expertise.


Seacombe Gardens

My matter was dealt with efficiently and was explained in an understandable language. A pleasant experience.



Practical and very helpful. Reasons and explanations given where needed



I stumbled across Websters in the Yellow Pages and I rang, explained my situation and immediately they took my case on. Greatly appreciate their services.



The service from Websters Lawyers was outstanding. [My solicitor] was caring, had patience and was very professional. Wonderful personality.



[My solicitor] made everything so simple to understand. [The receptionist] was wicked too, would recommend them anytime. Level of entire service was outstanding.


Golden Grove


I had dealings with Websters over 20 years ago. They were my first choice when I recently needed legal advice. Both legal and office staff were professional, courteous and accessible at all times. Everything was explained up front in a clear and concise manner. I would not hesitate to recommend their services.



It has truly been a pleasure communicating with you throughout the process. I really appreciate your patient and speedy replies to my questions and requests. You were always able to provide an easily understood response and this helped me deal with the process. Your friendly and positive manner encouraged me to seek your advice.


Battery Hill QLD

[My lawyer's] service was prompt and efficient with all questions explained clearly with all our requests carried out within the laws. Overall service was very satisfactory.


Wynn Vale

[My lawyer] was excellent. 



Excellent service. Professional. Clear advice and instructions. Prompt actions. Overall 10/10!


Ingle Farm

Overall, I was happy with my outcome and my lawyer, would definitely recommend [my lawyer].



[My solicitor] was excellent at helping us through preparing our wills which were particularly challenging as they involved assets in multiple countries. She was professional and knowledgeable and spent time tailoring the wills to our needs.



[My solicitor] was very helpful, respectful and polite. She made sure I understood the process and documentation of our wills.



Professional. Smooth Transaction. 


Largs North

I found the whole experience from Receptionist to Solicitor excellent. They completely put us at our ease.



This was a new experience for us and didn’t have a clue what to do. [Our solicitor] on our first visit put us at ease, explained what will happen, pointed out there was a strong case. [Our solicitor] was genuine in her approach, kept us well informed, explained actions several times with patience and understanding. Overall very happy with the service we received.


Elizabeth Vale

[My lawyer] was very reassuring in her approach to my case. I felt that every possibility in terms of evidence to provide and possible outcomes were explained to me, The result of the case was the best possible outcome I could have expected.

David, Belair


With no previous dealing with the criminal justice system, [our solicitor] gave us excellent advice and guided us through a nightmare to achieve a just and correct outcome. [Our lawyer] was both forthright and compassionate in her handling of our case.

Malcolm, Belair

[My lawyer] explained all the legal terms in language I could understand – she was very easy to talk to.

Cameron, Munno Para

I felt confident knowing my matter was in good hands. Very professional!

Shravan, Christie Downs

Initial phone call was fantastic and the role of an executor was fully explained.

Penny, Henley Beach

The service I received was efficient and promptly finalised. The solicitor clearly explained the details and I was happy with how easy it was.

Dale, Fairview Park

[My lawyer] was exactly the lawyer I needed in a serious matter. The outcome was as predicted which was a fantastic result. I received prompt professional and personal service at all times. Capable and supportive in a very stressful period.

Jason, Munno Para West

I had any of my concerns answered to my satisfaction and understanding.

Valda, Ingle Farm

[My lawyer] is an excellent professional lawyer who assisted in achieving a great positive outcome/result. I sincerely thank you and your great staff for your assistance and guidance throughout my claim. Would highly recommend [my lawyer], staff and Websters Lawyers. Kept fully informed and guided, professionally throughout the matter.

Rena, Northgate

Our work was dealt with very efficiently and speedily. Our lawyer was very professional, at the same time as being approachable. Communication was great.

Christina, Highbury

My experience with Websters Lawyers was far beyond what I expected. From the moment I spoke to [my lawyer] she made me feel very comfortable and eased my stress. In my case I had a court appearance the day before we were scheduled to fly to Spain, Considering my first appointment with her was only 2 weeks before the court hearing, she was able to obtain the police statement and thoroughly work on my case within that limited time frame. She was very knowledgeable, understanding and confident which greatly relieved so much pressure from me and my family. At court, she explained everything thoroughly and advised me of all the possible outcomes. Price, service and result, very highly recommended. Thank you Websters Lawyers.

Rafael, Davoren Park

I have high expectations and they were met. Websters service was swift, courteous, professional and met the agreed budget. I will recommend Websters to my family, friends and colleagues. Thank you.

Peter, Forestville

I would recommend Websters Lawyers, especially for [my lawyer's] dedication and exemplary attitude and advice. She is the epitome of a good lawyer. The service was impeccable.

Pamela, West Lakes

[My lawyer] was very professional and I was made comfortable to understand.

Gregory, Penfield

I was very pleased with the end result and how well [my lawyer] conducted herself.

Sonya, Glanville

Very professional.

Jesse, Morphett Vale

[My lawyer] has been very prompt , reliable and provided a high level of communication.

Peter, Parkside

My experience at Websters was very positive. The stress was taken from me and I could not be happier with the outcome. [My lawyer] at Websters was professional, personable, available and caring. Thank you for making the experience stress free.

Magda, Holden Hill

Found my lawyer upfront and reliable – I would highly recommend Websters Lawyers.

Lee, Evanston Park


Top bunch of solicitors and admin staff. Very friendly and to the point service.

Bradley, Hallett Cove

Websters Lawyers were very professional in their service, I would be happy to recommend them.

Carole, Tea Tree Gully

We would not hesitate in recommending Websters for any legal matter. They are professional and courteous at all times and call back when they say they will.

David and Dianne, Lockleys


I fully recommend Websters Lawyers. This was the 3rd time myself & my family have used Websters Lawyers. In these stressful times we have found them to answer and guide us through the process needed to accomplish the legal requirements in a timely and courteous manner.

Dianne, Lynton

Solid, to the point, no hustle. Highly recommend.

George, Windsor Gardens

Contact us

Adelaide Office :
T: ( 08 ) 8231 1363
F: ( 08 ) 8231 5529

Ridgehaven Office :
T: ( 08 ) 8395 8000
F: ( 08 ) 8395 8222

Smithfield Office :
T: ( 08 ) 8487 0150
F: ( 08 ) 8395 8222

© Copyright 2017 All Rights Reserved
Website By A to Z Marketing