Divorce Petition and Response have been filed, but what comes next?Explaining Preliminary Declaration of Disclosures
During a divorce, once the Petition and the Response have been filed, the natural next question is "What next?" Unless a Request for Order has been filed, there are no court dates set based on a Petition and Response, so without some legal guidance, couples seeking a divorce may not know what to do.
The most common next step is for each party to file their Preliminary Declaration of Disclosures. The purpose of this is to disclose all of your financial information to the other party. While you are married, you have a fiduciary duty to your spouse, so you cannot hide any assets or debts from them. These disclosures typically consist of six parts, as outlined below.
1. Complete a Schedule of Assets and Debts (form FL-142) OR a Property Declaration (form FL-160).
The Schedule of Assets and Debts is the most commonly used form. This essentially lists all of the assets and debts in your possession or in your spouse's possession that you have knowledge of. On the form, you disclose the current value and the debt owed on the asset or debt, as well as the date that the asset or debt was acquired. The date is important, as that can help determine if the asset is community property or separate property. You only have to list the current values on the form, so you don't need to go back and figure out what the value was on the date of separation. That can be determined later. You will also need to attach bank statements, vehicle titles, mortgage statements, and other documents that evidence the numbers listed on your form. You could instead fill out a Property Declaration form, but for this you will need to separate what is community property and what is separate property. This form can be more difficult to fill out.
2. Complete an Income and Expense Declaration (form FL-150)
The Income and Expense Declaration is a form where you can list your average monthly income, your last month's income, and any deductions from your income. You also must disclose your employer's information, your education level, any attorney fees that you may be requesting, and your estimated monthly expenses. You will also need to attach your pay stubs from the last two months of employment. If you are self-employed, you will need to attach either a Schedule C or a Profit and Loss Statement evidencing your income. This form is useful for calculating any required child or spousal support payments that may be ordered.
3. Disclose your tax returns filed during the last two years
Not everyone has equal access to your tax returns, so you need to disclose them on the other party, whether you filed jointly or separately. This provides further access to records of income claimed by both parties.
4. Disclose a statement of all material facts and information regarding valuation of all assets that are community property or in which the community has an interest
Most of these assets will already have been disclosed in the Schedule of Assets and Debts, but you must state to your spouse that the list on the Schedule of Assets and Debts is all of the community assets. If there are additional assets, you would disclose them in this statement.
5. Disclose a statement of all material facts and information regarding obligations for which the community is liable
Similarly to #4, most of these obligations will have been disclosed in the Schedule of Assets and Debts, but you must state that the list on the Schedule of Assets and Debts is complete. If there are additional debts, you must disclose them here.
6. Disclose an accurate and complete written disclosure of any investment opportunity, business opportunity, or other income-producing opportunity presented since the date of separation that results from any investment, significant business, or other income-producing opportunity from the date of marriage to the date of separation.
Typically, there are no such investment opportunities, but you still must disclose a statement informing your spouse that there are no investment or business opportunities. However, if you have been approached with an opportunity that is based on any work or investments from during the marriage, you must disclose them here, even if you declined them.
If you filed the Petition, you have 60 days from when you served your spouse with the Petition to complete these disclosures. If you filed the Response, you have 60 days from when you file your Response to complete the disclosures. The parties can mutually agree to extend these deadlines. Now, this all sounds like a lot of work to do just to get divorced, but it is a lot simpler than this post makes it sound. In essence, you just need to make a list of everything you have and disclose it to the other person. This makes sense, because how can you even begin to settle all the issues when you don't have all of the information. Once these are complete, you should have enough information to determine a fair division of assets and debts, determine child support, and determine spousal support. And if you can agree to child custody and visitation, then you are well on your way to an easy divorce that both sides can agree on.
Maria E. Crabtree, CFLS