Undoubtedly, one of the most difficult tasks for a lawyer is to obtain financial information from the opposing party, especially from self-represented litigants. It has been observed that individuals are reluctant to provide their financial information or try to hide them.
There could be many reasons for not disclosing the financial information including but not limited to (i) individuals do not understand what exactly needs to be provided or disclosed, (ii) they do not feel obligated to support their ex-spouse/ex-partner or are unwilling to give them the share from their assets especially when the relationship ends on bad terms, (iii) they simply want to keep their finances with themselves etc.
WHEN FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE IS REQUIRED?
Financial disclosure is usually required when issues relating to child support, spousal support, adult interdependent partner support and/or division of property are in dispute.
WHAT IS REQUIRED TO BE DISCLOSED IN FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE?
While this may vary from case to case, an individual’s income, assets, and liabilities are central to all the issues in which financial disclosure is a requirement. Form FL-17 “Notice to Disclose” outlines all the information/documents that are required to be disclosed by the individuals depending on their current position.
WHAT IS REQUIRED UNDER THE LAW?
In Alberta, financial disclosure obligations are mandated by the Alberta Rules of Court and Alberta Child Support Guidelines. The Alberta Court of Appeal in Brear v Brear, 2019 ABCA 419 made it clear “that the obligation to provide timely and complete financial disclosure exists independent of any court order or statute”.
If an individual does not provide financial information or provides incomplete information within the prescribed deadline or by any other extended deadline given by the court, the judges have the authority to impute an individual’s income. As per Sweezey v Sweezey, 2016 ABQB 131, “the Court is expressly authorized to draw inferences where there is a lack of relevant information”. A judge can also order several government agencies to obtain financial information of such an individual.
Further, a change in circumstances (such as an increase or decrease in income) should also be disclosed when it occurs. Since DBS v SRG, 2006 SCC 37, the Alberta Court of Appeal has accepted and acted upon the principle that “failing to disclose an increase in income is blameworthy conduct justifying variation to the date of the change”.
To sum up, it is beneficial for all the parties to exchange timely and detailed financial information with each other so that the resource and time of the courts and all the related parties are not exhausted, and a fair outcome is reached.