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Having Your Say – Declarations in Family Law

As family law attorneys, we often ask our clients to write declarations. Clients are often unsure of what a declaration is, and how it may be used. Here we’ll provide a brief overview of what declarations are and how they may be used in family law cases.

Declarations are sworn statements. They are written by people with factual information they think will be important to the court in making a decision. Declarations are the declarant’s story of how an event (or series of events) transpired. Parties and non-parties may write declarations. Declarations need not be notarized (that would be an affidavit), but they are signed under penalty of perjury. Declarations may be written on Washington’s pattern form.

Many clients have a lot they think the court needs to know in order to make a just decision. They may want to submit a 50 page declaration, or 50 one-page declarations from all their friends and family members. Unfortunately, the length of declarations is limited by court rules. The limitation generally includes the initial declaration as well as the reply declaration, meaning that you need to save some of your pages for after you receive the other side’s response. As attorneys, it is our job to help you decide what information is most important for the decision-maker to read.

As part of a declaration, exhibits may be submitted. This means submitting an additional document (picture, receipt, bank statement, etc.) referred to in the declaration. For example, if you write in a declaration that your spouse spent $5000 at a casino in one month, the court will likely want to see documentation of that spending (or read an explanation of why documentation isn’t available). In a case of he said, she said, the winner is often the one who can provide evidence that what he or she said is documented.

Some family law clients may not need declarations. If the parties are in agreement, or can reach an agreement without using a commissioner or judge’s assistance, they won’t need to submit declarations to the court.

If you have a family law issue that you’d like to discuss with a Seattle area attorney, please contact us.