Court Discusses Financial Disclosures in California Divorce Actions

One of the most contested issues in divorces is whether child support and spousal support are warranted and how property should be divided. As such, parties in a divorce action have the right to disclosure of each other’s income, assets, and debts prior to the court making any determinations regarding any financial rights or obligations. The right is not absolute, however, as demonstrated in a recent opinion delivered by a California court. If you are considering filing for divorce, it is important to understand how the decision will impact you financially, and you should speak to a Bay Area divorce attorney as soon as possible.

Factual and Procedural History

It is alleged that the wife and the husband wed in 2008. They welcomed three children during their marriage. In 2018, they separated. The wife filed a petition for dissolution in 2018 as well. Subsequently, the parties exchanged preliminary declarations of disclosure, income, and expenses. They then proceeded to a voluntary settlement conference. They were both represented by counsel during the conference and had the assistance of forensic accountants.

It is reported that after the conference, they entered into a marital settlement agreement that set forth their rights and obligations with regard to spousal support and child support and divided their property. The parties did not exchange final disclosures prior to entering into the agreement. The wife then refused to sign the agreement. The husband’s attorney filed a motion for enforcement pursuant to the terms of the agreement. Based on the terms of the agreement, the court then entered a judgment of dissolution of marriage. The wife filed an appeal.

Financial Disclosures in California Divorce Actions

Pursuant to California law, parties must serve one another with final declarations of disclosure, income, and expenses prior to executing marital settlement agreements. Further, the law dictates that the courts should not enter judgment with respect to property rights in divorce actions if the parties or their attorneys have not served one another with such declarations and filed notice of service with the court.

In the subject case, the husband did not serve the wife with his final declarations before the parties entered into the settlement agreement. As such, the wife argued that the agreement should be set aside and that the judgment arising out of the agreement should be reversed. The court disagreed and denied her appeal. In doing so, it explained that if parties willingly resolve disputed issues prior to trial, complete compliance with the disclosure requirements is not necessary. In other words, if the parties can come to an agreement cooperatively and fairly, they do not need to make disclosures. As such, the court affirmed the trial court’s judgment.

Talk to a Trusted California Family Law Attorney

When people divorce, they have the option of determining their rights with regard to property division and support without involving the courts, and if they develop an agreement, it will likely be enforced. If you intend to end your marriage, it is wise to talk to an attorney about your options for protecting your financial interests throughout the process. The trusted family law attorneys of Bay Area Family Law Center can advise you of your rights and help you to seek the best legal result possible under the facts of your case. You can contact us through our online form or by calling us at 925-258-2020 to schedule a meeting.

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