In order to better understand this issue, I should explain the background to financial proceedings and the duty of “full and frank” financial disclosure.
The duty of disclosure is fundamental to the Court process; the Court cannot come to a fair, reasonable and just decision about money and finances if it is denied the necessary evidence on which to base its decision.
The duty is personal to each party and this can best be illustrated by the wording of the Affidavit of Means (also called a Form E) which both parties in contested litigation must use to provide a full picture of their finances. The wording provides that: –
You have a duty to the Court to give a full, frank and clear disclosure of all financial and other relevant circumstances. A failure to give full and accurate disclosure may result in any order the Court makes being set aside, and a costs order being made against you. If you are found to have been deliberately untruthful, criminal proceedings for perjury may be taken against you.
It is clear from these words that the duty is a positive one to disclose everything, and a failure to disclose (whether by accident or design) can result in the matter being re-opened and you having to pay your ex’s costs as well as your own.
Contrary to the view of some individuals you cannot rifle through your ex’s papers and financial documents without fear of sanction or consequence.
There have, over recent years, been a number of high profile cases when such actions have had material consequences within the confines of divorce proceedings, both for the parties and their legal representatives (in certain circumstances).
This could mean that your assets are reduced by two sets of legal fees and that you will end up with less that you may have done had you complied with this legal obligation on you.