Husband secures Court permission to access information about Wife’s late Father’s Estate – over protests from her family members
Posted: 6th January 2015
Posted in: News
Posted by: Dean Evans, Partner
A Husband had a simple request of his Wife, post-separation, “Please disclose what you stand to inherit from your late father.”
It’s a commonsense notion that each spouse is entitled to know the financial position of the other and to have identified in the proceedings, all property of any kind. This includes any interest in a deceased estate.
Before you develop any level of outrage, sharing information is not the same as seeking an interest out of the estate of your spouse’s parent or other family member who would never have wanted you to see a cent.
It’s just relevant to deciding financial cases for property settlement, maintenance and child support.
In Hall & Hall And Anor (Objection to Subpoena)  FamCA 407 Judge Dawe dealt with the resistance of the Wife and her family, to the sharing information with the Husband/his lawyers, about the large estate left behind by the Wife’s father (and her entitlements in it), who had died 6 months before separation.
The Husband and his advisers were accused of being on a fishing expedition. The request for the information was denied and the Husband had to go to the cost, time and expense of issuing a Subpoena and dealing with the family’s objection to it in Court – probably at a cost of circa $5,000 – $10,000.
However, approaching the issue in a calm and reasoned manner, you can break down Judge Dawe’s reasoning for the granting of access to the information as follows:-
- Looking at the Wife’s financial statement, she had sworn she had an unknown interest in the estate – he reasoned the disclosure would resolve the unknown.
- The Husband had described the Wife’s father as having run an “enormous business empire” whereas the Wife used different terminology, having accepted her father ran a “significant network of businesses with her brothers during his life”.
- The threshold for authorising the gathering of evidence in family law is not high.
- The Wife’s own case, as presented, warranted the disclosure/provision of the documents.
- Provision of the documents is not the end of the matter – after the parties accessed the documents, they may or may not be relevant or admissible in the proceedings.
The case is another example of the need for parties to comply with disclosure obligations and deal with the proceedings in a commonsense manner.
The Judges before whom we regularly appear are heard to remark in disclosure cases, that they want parties to engage in a process of “show and tell” and not “hide and seek”.
In an era of docket judges and a limited judicial pool of decision-makers, you would not want your client to be labelled as engaging in “hide and seek” at any juncture or not approaching the matter with commonsense.
Litigants should seek and carefully consider advice concerning disclosure and their obligations.
Thanks for reading