Handling Financial Disclosure with Family Law
Financial disclosure is an issue that arises in all family law files. Whether there are issues respecting child or spousal support, or if there are assets and debts to be divided, financial disclosure is a foundation step before lawyers are able to advise their clients on these issues.

The first stage usually involves the completion of a Financial Statement, which is a formal document that lists the parties’ assets and debts, as well as their income and expenses. Come to your lawyer prepared to complete your Financial Statement, which should attach your last three years’ income tax returns and Notices of Assessment, your last three paystubs from any employment, as well as any available statement for each asset and debt listed in your name or for which you are responsible.

Depending on the issues on the file, more disclosure is often required and sometimes those obligations can be onerous. For example, several years of account statements may be required if there is a concern that there has been a wasting or transferring of assets. If there is a family business or significant shares in a corporation, significant disclosure may be required respecting the dealings of that corporation, such as interim and historical financial statements, funds paid to non-arm’s length persons (such as family members), bank statements, and inventory and asset lists.

Litigation Fatigue & Financial Disclosure

Many clients find the disclosure requirements to be cumbersome and invasive. This is a natural reaction to the litigation process and is one of the components that lead to litigation fatigue. However, avoiding disclosure obligations will often result in the opposing party making a court application for the documents that they seek. If the documents are deemed to be relevant to an issue in the case, the Court will likely order its production. In addition to paying your lawyer’s legal fees, you will likely be ordered to pay some of the costs of the other party, and in the most egregious of cases, a fine of up to $5,000, as set out in section 213 of the Family Law Act.

What to Expect from Paine Edmonds LLP

Early in your case, at Paine Edmonds LLP of Vancouver, we will have a discussion with you respecting disclosure and what your obligations will be as your file proceeds. Your file will likely resolve quicker and at less cost if you are proactive in obtaining the disclosure that your lawyer advises will likely be necessary. Attempting to avoid your obligation to disclose information will often result in increased costs, but may also injure your credibility, which is one of your most important assets down the road, should you ever be in trial.

Considering Existing Assets & Debts

Further, the Family Law Act takes into consideration assets and debts existing at the beginning of the relationship, as well as any gifts or inheritances received during the relationship. The party that brought those assets into the relationship may be able to take their original value back out of the asset pool prior to the remaining assets being divided between the parties. Subsequently, some investigative work may be required to obtain the proof necessary of both the ownership and value of those assets at the start of the relationship, as the onus lies on the party that wishes those assets to be exempt from division to prove their original value and ownership. The more documentation that you bring into your meeting with your lawyer, the more equipped your lawyer will be to advocate for you effectively and resolve the issues on your file.

If you need help understanding financial disclosure, contact the family law lawyers of Paine Edmonds LLP today. You can book a free consultation.