Now that you have decided to divorce, you might be asking, what is the actual first step I am supposed to take? You are aware that divorce is a legal process, whether or not you actually hire a lawyer or mediator, and therefore, recognize that there are legal forms for divorce that must be completed. And, if you have done your own taxes, you know that legal forms are never as straightforward as they appear. You could easily misinterpret what is being asked.
What’s so nerve-wracking is that inaccurate completion of your divorce forms, for whatever reason, could delay the entire process. When your future hangs in the balance, the last thing you will want is a divorce paperwork headache.
The Importance of Transparency and Declaration of Disclosure in CA Divorce
The requirement of declaration of disclosure forms is a good thing. Think of the declaration of disclosure as an opportunity to be open with your spouse before you start negotiating how to divide your assets and debts. It’s a chance to prove honest intentions as you bring formal closure to your marriage as you start to get yourself organized.
Transparency isn’t just about document gathering. It is the core of the fact-checking and discovery process. Underlying this arduous, boring task lies evidence. No more speculation.
Importance of Transparency and Declaration of Disclosure in Divorce:
- If you are using divorce mediation, you are creating your own case and advocating for yourself. Taking the time to gather login credentials, upload statements, etc allows you to get acquainted or re-acquainted with your true financial picture – very empowering for both spouses.
- Disclosure of income and expenses allows the mediator or court to help determine child and/or spousal support.
- By giving a true picture of the marital inventory, you can already begin to envision a plan for dividing those assets and communicate with your spouse and other professionals involved in your case.
In a nutshell, transparency = fairness = best interests of the family = peace of mind.
Since CA divorce law requires declaration of disclosure forms, there are legal ramifications if one spouse is hiding assets – even after the divorce is finalized. Your spouse is allowed to reopen the case to revisit this issue and offer a revised settlement determination, such as an entire asset going to another spouse, or another penalty for not disclosing.
Think about it. If a business were closing, they liquidate their inventory, and to do that, you must first list out all the inventory and its worth. So is the business of your divorce.
Overview of Required Declaration of Disclosure Divorce Forms in CA
The following forms as used as the required Declaration of Disclosure in California:
- Declaration of Disclosure (FL 140) (NOT filed with the court)
- Declaration Regarding Service of Declaration of Disclosure of Income and Expense Declaration (FL-141) (FILED with the court)
- Schedule of Assets and Debts (FL-142) (NOT filed with the court)
- Income and Expense Declaration (FL-150) (FILED with the court)
Let’s review each CA declaration of disclosure in divorce forms in more depth:
- Declaration of Disclosure (FL 140)
Fl 140 is basically a cover sheet that requires you to check off that you have attached your other California disclosure forms.
(from FL140, CA Court)
When is the Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure (FL 140) completed?
- The CA divorce law statute says form FL140 must be filed within 90 days of filing for divorce petition for the petitioner and within 60 days for the spouse who has been served to complete and respond. In private divorce mediation, there is flexibility here, but your mediator will still require this disclosure of marital inventory as part of your divorce process.
(from FL 140)
2. Declaration Regarding Service of Declaration of Disclosure of Income and Expense Declaration (FL-141)
This form is FILED with the court and serves as your statement that you were transparent about your financial information on your spouse.
3. Assets and Debts (FL-142)
Prior to completing your forms, you’ll also need to have solid estimates of the following.
The assets will include:
- All bank accounts, including children’s accounts
- Vehicles (auto, boats, trailers)
- Personal property (jewelry, antiques, furniture, etc)
- Real Estate
- Lawsuit claims
- Loans and credit cards
- Retirement accounts (latest statement only)
- Business interests (you’ll need K-1 and Schedule C tax forms)
- Employer stock options
- Stock, bonds, mutual funds investments
- Life insurance
- Mortgages/home equity lines of credit
- Credit cards
- Student loans
- Child/Spousal Support Owed
- Credit Cards
For each asset, you’ll need to include the date acquired, current gross fair market value, as well as the amount of money owed.
Even if you are unsure of whose name is listed on the asset, remember, honest disclosure is the foremost purpose of the Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure, so better to list with your best guestimate and make a note to get the actual values in preparation for the Final Declaration of Disclosure.
4. Income and Expense Declaration (FL-150)
Fl 150 looks similar to an IRS tax form. Here you will go into detail regarding all types of income including:
- Public Assistance
- Spousal support
- Social Security
- (I.e. Royalties)
- Investment Income
- Income from self-employment
Any descriptions of change of income
(Note: You’ll need to attach pay stubs for the last two months.)
You’ll also complete deductions that may include:
- Union dues
- Some types of retirement payments
- Medical and health expenses
- Court-ordered support
- Necessary job-related expenses
Attorney fees paid and how much is owed
Child Support Information
- Children’s health expenses
- Special hardships (i.e. loss of insurance, major illness)
- Other information to help the court understand support in your case
Again, in a divorce mediation process outside of court, disclosure of income, expenses, and deductions are essential to a fair outcome.
5. Final Declaration of Disclosure
In CA, the Final Declaration of Disclosure is completed toward the end of your divorce process. If going to trial, a few months ahead, along with other requirements, such as a mandatory or voluntary settlement conference.
FAQ’s about Declaration of Disclosure in CA
Do I need to have all documentation upfront for declaration of disclosure forms?
The statute doesn’t require supporting statements or other documentation on your Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure. It’s still a good idea to gather these documents, as this will make your case more efficient, and has a trust-building effect with your spouse, that you have evidence.
Don’t worry if you don’t know the difference ahead of completing these forms.
Do I need to know whether an asset is a separate property or community property to complete the Declaration of Disclosure divorce forms in CA?
Whether you think an asset is a separate property or community property asset, it must be disclosed. Basically, community property is described as any assets or debts you accrued, accumulated or incurred from the date of marriage to the date of separation in CA.
What happens if my spouse refuses to file their Declaration of Disclosure?
If your spouse is not represented by an attorney and does not complete the Declaration of Disclosure, then you must give them legal notice asking them to complete the PDD. If that doesn’t work, then you would need to file a legal motion. As you can quickly see, any resistance from your spouse along the way creates a stumbling block toward a peaceful, amicable divorce. Unless you are able to communicate directly with your spouse, then legal action would need to occur and a motion must be filed, leading to an adversarial process.
How will I know if my spouse puts the correct information on this form?
This is the burning question that, can actually help you determine whether mediation is the best path for the financial aspects of your divorce. For the Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure, there is no legal requirement that you attach actual bank statements or other supporting documentation. However, the final declaration of disclosure does require you to attach all the supporting documentation before your divorce is final.
What happens if forms are not filled out correctly?
Giving the benefit of the doubt, you or your spouse may not intentionally enter incorrect information. However, incorrect information can cause confusion as to how the assets could end up being divided and cause delays. For example, Even after the divorce is finalized, your spouse can reopen the case to revisit this issue. The court has discretion in how the asset can be divided, such as an entire asset going to the other spouse.
How do I make sure I complete these forms correctly?
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of what is required as you start the legal process of divorce in California. If it is your wish to mediate your divorce, share this article with your spouse to allow both of you to be on the same page. Remember the smoother your divorce process on the legal end, the more you can focus on what matters most – your family and your future.
If we are in divorce mediation outside the court process, what should we know?
Make sure you work with a mediator with a family law background to help you handle the legal and financial aspects and complete the Declaration of Disclosure correctly and avoid confusion and delays. This goes a long way toward keeping the peace.
I hope this clears up some confusion about the Declaration of Disclosure forms for divorce in CA.
For more guidance on how to complete your forms, contact us at 213-351-1000.