Penalty for Hiding Assets in Divorce in Australia


Divorce and property settlements can be challenging, especially regarding the division of assets.

One issue that often arises is the hiding of assets by one party in an attempt to receive a more favourable property settlement.

This practice is not only unethical but also illegal in Australia.

Understanding the penalty for hiding assets in divorce in Australia is crucial for anyone going through this difficult process.


The Legal Framework


In Australia, the Family Law Act 1975 governs divorce and property settlements.

The law requires both parties to provide full and frank disclosure of all assets, liabilities, and financial resources.

This includes:



  • Real Estate: Houses, apartments, land, and any other properties.
  • Vehicles: Cars, motorcycles, boats, and other vehicles.
  • Bank Accounts: Savings, checking, and term deposits.
  • Investments: Shares, bonds, and other investment portfolios.
  • Superannuation: Retirement savings and pension plans.
  • Personal Property: Jewellery, artwork, collectibles, and valuable household items.
  • Business Interests: Ownership stakes in companies, partnerships, and sole proprietorships.



  • Mortgages: Home loans and other property-related debts.
  • Personal Loans: Car loans, student loans, and other personal debts.
  • Credit Card Debt: Outstanding balances on credit cards.
  • Tax Debts: Any owed taxes to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).
  • Other Liabilities: Any other debts or financial obligations.


Financial Resources

  • Trust Funds: Money or assets held in trusts.
  • Inheritance: Expected inheritances or those already received.
  • Insurance Policies: Life insurance, health insurance, and other policies with a cash value.
  • Future Interests: Any interests in future assets or income streams, such as royalties or deferred compensation.

Full disclosure ensures that the division of assets is fair and equitable.


What Constitutes Hiding Assets?


Hiding assets can take various forms, such as:

  • Transferring assets to family members or friends
  • Undervaluing assets
  • Not disclosing certain bank accounts or investments
  • Transferring funds to overseas accounts

These actions are considered fraudulent and can have severe consequences.


Penalties for Hiding Assets in Divorce


In Australia, if a party is found to have hidden assets during a divorce, the Court has the authority to impose significant penalties, including:


Financial Penalties

The Court can order the party who hid the assets to pay a substantial sum to the other party.

This amount can be in addition to the equitable division of the disclosed assets.


Contempt of Court

Hiding assets can lead to a contempt of Court charge.

This is a serious offence that can result in fines or even imprisonment.

The Court takes a very dim view of anyone who attempts to deceive the legal process.


Adverse Inferences

The Court may draw adverse inferences against the party who hid the assets.

This means the Court might assume that the hidden assets were of significant value, leading to a more favourable property settlement for the other party.


Legal Costs

The Court may order the party who hid the assets to pay the other party’s legal costs.

This can add a significant financial burden on top of the existing penalties.


Case Law Example


Several cases in Australian family law highlight the severity of the penalty for hiding assets in a divorce.

In the case of Weir & Weir (1993), the husband failed to disclose a significant amount of assets.

The Court awarded a larger portion of the disclosed assets to the wife and ordered the husband to pay her legal costs.

In another case, Black & Kellner (1992), the husband transferred substantial funds to an overseas account without disclosing it.

The Court found him in contempt and imposed a severe financial penalty, alongside awarding a larger share of the remaining assets to the wife.


How to Ensure Full Disclosure


If you’re going through a divorce, it’s crucial to ensure full disclosure of all assets.

Here are some steps you can take:


Hire a Family Lawyer

A family lawyer can help ensure that all assets are disclosed and that you receive a fair property settlement.


Financial Records

Keep thorough records of all your financial transactions.

This can include bank statements, property deeds, and investment records.



Be open and honest about all your assets.

This can prevent future legal issues and ensure a smoother property settlement process.


Why Full Disclosure is Beneficial


Providing full disclosure of all assets benefits both parties.

It ensures a fair division of property and can lead to a quicker property settlement resolution.

Additionally, it helps maintain a level of trust and cooperation, which can be beneficial if children are involved.


Contact Us


Hiding assets in a divorce is a serious offence in Australia.

The penalties for such actions can be severe, including financial penalties, contempt of court charges, and adverse inferences.

It’s essential to provide full and frank disclosure of all assets to ensure a fair and equitable property settlement.

If you’re dealing with property settlement, consider seeking the advice and services of a family lawyer to guide you through the process and ensure compliance with the law.

For more information about the penalties for hiding assets in divorce in Australia, contact Bambrick Legal today. We offer a free, no-obligation 15-min consultation for all enquiries.

Read more about our Family Law services here.

Related Blog – How Long After Separation Can You Claim Property?

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