The Duty to Disclose

Civil litigation is often described as a treasure hunt, in which you get the right information only if you ask the right questions. Family law is different in that each party has an affirmative duty to provide information to the other side at the earliest stages of the case.

Family Code Section 2103 provides that:

"In order to provide full and accurate disclosure of all assets and liabilities in which one or both parties may have an interest, each party to a proceeding for dissolution of the marriage or legal separation of the parties shall serve on the other party a preliminary declaration of disclosure under Section 2104 and a final declaration of disclosure under Section 2105, unless service of the final declaration of disclosure is waived pursuant to Section 2105 or 2110, and shall file proof of service of each with the court."

Often, the parties see this step as a formality and give little attention to the accurate preparation of the two documents which comprise the Declarations of Disclosure: the Income and Expense Declaration and the Schedule of Assets and Debts. Failure to accurately and thoroughly disclose the assets and the debts of the community, even if the other side knows about them, can have serious penalties for the disclosing party. Penalties can include attorney's fees, sanctions (paid to the court) or an unequal division of property.

The time you spend on accurately and properly gathering and disclosing the assets and debts that are known to each party can help settle a case, avoid attorney's fees and costs, and prevent you from losing your property. It is always time well spent.