Why is disclosure important in family law mediation?

Disclosure in family law matters

Full and frank disclosure is crucial in family law matters, including mediation. Disclosure ensures all parties have access to accurate and complete information about each other’s finances. This information is crucial to make informed decisions about the division of assets, property, and financial support.  It’s also a legal requirement.

If disclosure is not provided, what’s the risk? Consider the story of Mary and John….

Mary and John were a couple who had decided to separate. They had two children and had been married for 20 years. They both agreed that they wanted to avoid the stress and expense of going to court, so they opted for mediation to help them reach an agreement on the division of their assets and the care arrangements for their children.

Before the mediation, Mary and John were both advised to provide full and frank disclosure of their financial circumstances. 

Mary took this advice seriously and provided detailed information about her income, assets, and debts. John appeared to be cooperative and provided what Mary believed was a complete disclosure of his financial circumstances.

At mediation, Mary and John reached an agreement on the division of their assets and the care arrangements for their children. They both signed an Application for Consent Orders and it was submitted to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia for approval.  The Court made the Orders and John and Mary then took the steps needed to implement the Orders.

However, a few months later, Mary discovered that John had failed to disclose one of his assets, a property that he had inherited from his grandparents. This property was worth a significant amount of money and would have made a difference to the agreement they reached.

Mary was shocked and felt that John had misled her during the mediation process. She obtained legal advice and tried to get John to set aside their Orders.  He refused, so Mary  took the matter to Court to have the Orders set aside for non-disclosure.

The Court agreed with Mary’s argument and set aside the Orders.  John was also ordered to pay Mary’s legal fees. 

Mary was relieved that justice had been served, but she couldn’t help feeling frustrated that she had to go through the stress and expense of going to Court. She felt betrayed and found it difficult to put this aside when co-parenting with John.  She wished that John had provided full and frank disclosure during the mediation process, as this could have avoided the whole ordeal.


Providing full and frank disclosure is essential in family law matters and mediation.  Ithelps minimise disputes, reduces the risk of future legal challenges, and ensures that all parties have a fair and transparent process. 

Here are our top 5 tips for providing full and frank disclosure in family law matters and mediation:

  1. Be honest and transparent about your financial circumstances. This includes disclosing all sources of income, assets, and debts.
  2. Ensure that all relevant documents and information are provided, such as tax returns, bank statements, and property valuations.
  3. Seek professional advice, such as from an accountant or financial adviser, to ensure that you have a complete understanding of your financial situation.
  4. Understand the legal obligation to provide full and frank disclosure and the consequences of failing to do so. This includes the possibility of an agreement or order being set aside for fraud or non-disclosure.
  5. Work with the mediator or lawyers involved to create a safe and non-judgmental environment for open communication. This can help build trust between you and the other party and ensure that all relevant information is disclosed in a timely and complete manner.

Does disclosure apply if our matter is not in the family law courts?

There is a strict duty of disclosure in family law matters filed in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.

However, many people attend mediation without needing to first file in Court (and this is encouraged by the Court).

The Family Law Rules make it very clear that even if your matter is not in Court, the duty to disclose still applies:

(2)  The duty of disclosure applies from the start of the proceeding and continues until the proceeding is finalised.

Note:  Parties are also expected to comply with the duty of disclosure when complying with the pre‑action procedures.

Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Family Law) Rules 2021: 6.01  General duty of disclosure

As well as disclosure being part of the pre-action procedures, when an Application for Consent Orders is filed with the Court, you are required to confirm in that documents that all of your financial circumstances have been disclosed.   It makes no sense to not disclose before mediation and then put it in the Application.

So, John could not argue that he was not required to disclose his inherited property – it was absolutely necessary.

Disclosure in family law matters should also not require a fishing expedition by the other party.  You are required to disclose your finances and relevant documents.  It’s not up to the other party to know what to ask for – it’s about transparency and full and frank disclosure.   It’s not a game of Computer Battleship (one of the best games of the 1980s…) hoping you might hit a target.   

Having to drag disclosure out of someone definitely does not increase trust and can make it harder to reach agreements at mediation.

The moral of the story of John and Mary is:

  • disclose everything
  • disclose early
  • disclose if anything changes 


Book a free discovery call to learn more about how we can help you in mediation.

Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *