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What do I do if my spouse or domestic partner does not complete their DECLARATION OF DISCLOSURE?


Q. What do I do if the other party to a divorce or dissolution of domestic partnership proceeding refuses to file their Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure?

A. Declarations of Disclosure must be exchanged in all California proceedings for dissolution of marriage or domestic partnership, for legal separations, and for annulments. They do not need to be served in any other form of family law proceeding.

There are two forms of Declarations of Disclosure: Preliminary Declarations of Disclosure (PDD's) and Final Declarations of Disclosure (FDD's). PDD's are governed by Family Code section 2103 and FC section 2104. FDD's are governed by Family Code section 2105. While parties to a dissolution or legal separation action can waive the exchange of the FDD in writing (although it is not a good idea to do so for reasons discussed in my blogs about fiduciary duties), they cannot waive exchanging the Preliminary Declarations with one exception: Where a dissolution or legal separation judgment is obtained by default, the defaulting party need not provide the PDD to the other party. Family Code section 2110.

Note that I used the words "exchange" and "serve." This is because the forms themselves are not required to be filed with the Court itself - instead, the proof of service upon the other party to the proceeding is what is to be filed. Judicial Council Form FL-141 is what you file with the clerk's office. In practice many people do file the actual schedules with the clerk, which can be a good idea because whether these forms were really exchanged and their contents can have a big impact on future set aside motions.

Here is the California Judicial Council Form FL-140 cover sheet that accompanies the PDD or the FDD. As you can see, it is the same form but different boxes are checked for each. A form FL-150 Income and Expense Declaration must accompany both, in addition to the FL-142 Schedule of Assets and Debts and the FL-160 Property Declaration.

The FDD is supposed to have much more detailed information, including supporting attachments, then is expected in the PDD.

Where the proceedings do not conclude by way of a default Judgment, the problem you have where the other party fails or refuses to exchange at least their PDD and thereupon to file the FL-141 proof of service is that the clerk cannot (a) set the matter for trial or (b) cannot accept for submittal to a judge and later filing a Stipulated Judgment or Marital Termination Agreement. This can make it impossible to conclude a case even by way of settlement where both parties are in perfect agreement, or to obtain a trial date where they are not. One party can hold up the entire process, and it is true that this often happens intentionally.

Parties must complete and exchange their preliminary declarations within 60 days of filing their Petition or Response. Family Code section 2104.

The only remedy you have is file a notice of motion (or OSC application) pursuant to Family Code section 2107 asking that the court order the other party to serve their PDD and file the proof of service within a given number of days, not usually exceeding thirty. That motion should request an order that the other party's Petition or Response be stricken if they then fail to do so in a timely manner, so that your matter may effectively proceed by default hearing.

Expect the Court to give the other side one or two opportunities to get themselves into compliance with their fiduciary obligations to provide this exchange.

Want to learn more about California rules relating to Declarations of Disclosure?

Thurman W. Arnold III