Declaration of Disclosure in a California Divorce – Do the Right Thing

By | December 27, 2011

This is a rant. I am annoyed with people (especially those represented by attorneys) foisting off shoddily prepared declarations of disclosure. What do they think they will gain with such sloppy work? For those new to the notion of declarations of disclosure, these documents are comprised primarily of a schedule of assets and debts and an income and expense declaration. They provide a laundry list of the assets and debts of a marriage, separate property of the parties, and the income and expenses of a party. Each item in each category should have supporting documentation. For example, a community bank account should have the most recent bank statement included as a source document for the values provided in the forms, real property should have deeds and mortgage statements to back up the value and debt, etc. Yet people do not do this. They make up values out of thin air (understating or overstating to benefit themselves most), do not disclose assets, exaggerate their expenses, and understate their incomes. And you wonder why it’s so expensive to get a divorce? It takes time and money to dig through the lies people tell and get to the truth. More often than not, the liar has all the money and the poor but honest spouse can’t afford to fight the war of attrition that inevitably ensues over the other party’s candor. This is not a cook book on how to get away with lying about your assets. On the contrary, it should be a warning to all those mischief-minded spouses who think they will get away with their shenanigans. A diligent attorney (such as myself) can force a noncompliant party to properly disclose their assets, debts, income, and expenses. It may take some doing and some court time, but if successful, not only will the liar have to pony up the appropriate information and source documents, but he or she will be penalized with a sanction order, usually for monetary sanctions. And if that is not enough, if you fail to disclose an asset, the innocent party has a good chance of being awarded all of it if it is ever discovered. That is incentive for the non-managing spouse to do his or her homework and try to put the pieces together to see if their spouse has a secret stash or has some other assets hidden away somewhere.

So the moral of this story is be honest and forthcoming. Not only will you reduce the amount of legal fees spent fighting over your dishonesty (which you have a good chance of paying, being the troublemaker), but you will hopefully be able to reduce the level of contention in your divorce.