California Family Law Disclosure Forms
Whether you are representing yourself in your divorce, or a pro per family law litigant, you need to know about and understand the Declarations of Disclosure that are required in California before a Judgment of Dissolution may be entered. Getting it wrong can have serious consequences. In my experience, paralegal firms or non-lawyer mediators do not know how to properly assist clients in meeting these obligations, and even seasoned divorce attorneys get these disclosure forms wrong. You need to understand that these disclosure forms are not simply another document that needs to be prepared in a sloppy fashion in order to complete your divorce, but rather they are the proof that you have complied with important spousal fiduciary duties after your physical separation.
You can’t get even a default divorce and marital termination agreement past the family court clerk without a least a Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure (PDD) and when the other side has appeared in the action, you cannot obtain a Divorce Judgment without both parties have exchanged for waived the Final Declaration of Disclosure (FDD). Even if the documents have been exchanged, if they are incomplete or inaccurate the other party may be able to set all or parts of your divorce judgment or divorce settlement for up to several years after a judgment is filed. These rules and requirements apply equally to domestic partnerships, annulments, and legal separations.
This article covers the Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure.
Preliminary Declarations of Disclosure
California Family Code sections 2100 to 2113 cover declarations of disclosure for California divorces. FC section 2100(a) declares it is the policy of the State of California to “(1) marshal, preserve, and protect community, and quasi-community assets and liabilities that exist at the date of separation so as to avoid dissipation of the community estate before distribution, (2) to ensure fair and sufficient child and spousal support awards, and (3) to achieve a division of community and quasi-community assets and liabilities on the dissolution or nullity of marriage or legal separation of the parties as provided by California law.”
FC section 2100(c) states that in order to promote this policy “a full and accurate disclosure of all assets and liabilities in which one or both parties have or may have an interest must be made in the early stages of a proceeding for dissolution of marriage or legal separation of the parties, regardless of the characterization as community or separate, together with a disclosure of all income and expenses of the parties.”
This bears emphasis:
- There must be a full disclosure
- It must be accurate
- It includes all assets
- It includes all liabilities
- It applies to assets or liabilities one has or may have
- The disclosure must be made early on in the proceedings, although there is no specific time rule
- It doesn’t matter whether you think the asset or debt is a separate property item, you still must disclose
- You must also fully and accurately disclose all income and expenses
- Although the statute doesn’t say it, you may see why these are forms that you do not want to lose – since, as mentioned below, the disclosures themselves are not filed with the court.
FC section 2100(c) does not, however, stop there. The statute continues “Moreover, each party has a continuing duty to immediately, fully, and accurately update and augment that disclosure to the extent that there have been any material changes so that at the time the parties enter into an agreement for the resolution of any of these issues, or at the time of trial on these issues, each party will have a full and complete knowledge of the underlying facts.”
Family Code section 2102 sets forth the rules governing interspousal fiduciary duties, including the operation and management of community or part community businesses. I will discuss this section elsewhere and link back to it when that article is finished.
Family Code section 2104 describes the Preliminary declaration of disclosure. It must be completed as set forth in this Judicial Council Form. It does not get filed with the Court, but a declaration stating it has been exchanged must be filed with the Court.
If, as commonly occurs where parties have negotiated and signed an agreement and the Dissolution Judgment proceeds by default with a Marital Settlement Agreement signed by both being submitted, no final disclosure needs to be exchanged between the parties but the Petitioner still must himself or herself complete and serve the Preliminary declaration; the defaulting Respondent is relieved of that obligation.
Family Code sections 2120 to 2129 describe when a judgment for dissolution, or a property settlement or a support settlement, may be set aside for defects in the Preliminary declaration of disclosure and for other reasons.
You can find the California Judicial Council forms here.
Author: T.W. Arnold, C.F.L.S.