If you are involved in a family law matter there will undoubtedly come a time when either you or someone you know will have to write a declaration. Declarations are witness testimony written under the penalty of perjury. They are used in lieu of taking actual in-person witness testimony during the hearing. Declarations are used to support your side of the family law matter. There are two important factors to keep in mind while writing a declaration or when asking another person to write a declaration in support of your side: formal requirements that must be satisfied before a declaration will be accepted by the court and tips to making a declaration effective.
Formal Requirements for a Declaration
There are certain requirements that must be met before the court will accept a declaration. These requirements ensure statements maintain an acceptable standard of indicia of reliability. Below is a list of requirements that must be included in the declaration before the court will accept it.
· The person writing the declaration must be over the age of 18, competent to testify, and offer testimony of which he or she has actual, personal knowledge. Minor children involved in the family law case should never write declarations.
· The top of the declaration must contain a caption. The caption has the county name and state, the names of the parties, and the case number.
· The end of the declaration must contain the wording: “I declare under penalty of perjury of the laws of the state of Washington that the foregoing is true and correct."
· The declarant must then write the date along with the city and state in which the declaration was signed.
· The declaration must be signed. The court will not accept any declarations that are not signed by the declarant.
· Most local court rules have limits on the number of pages you can submit with a motion. Make sure you do not exceed those limits otherwise sanctions could be imposed.
· If you want to attach documents to the declaration, such as bills, school records, medical records, police reports, etc., you should refer to them in the declaration and call the documents “Exhibits" and number them. If they contain personal information, they should be sealed before they are submitted.
Tips for Writing an Effective Declaration
Once the requirements for the declaration have been met, you can concentrate on producing a declaration that is persuasive. The tips below will help you write an effective declaration.
· Declarations should be as short and concise as possible. Stick to the main points. Do not go off on tangents. Put your most important points first and the less important points later. Try not to waste the court’s time by writing about unrelated matters.
· Explain how well you know the parties or children in the case.
· Type your declaration out or write it neatly. If the declaration is illegible, the court will probably not read it.
· Refrain from making general statements. Try to be specific. For example, instead of saying “he is a bad father," say “on May 21st Bill dropped the children off at my house and he smelled like liquor."
· Use headings to organize the declaration and make it easy for the reader to find your main points. Take time to organize your declaration into headings before you fill in the details.
· It may be easier for you to organize your declaration into chronological order. It could make it easier for the reader to follow.
· Make sure to tell your story. The declaration is an opportunity for you to convey your side of the story to the court. If you are responding to the other side’s declaration, make sure you address their major points. Points raised by the other side that are not acknowledged in your response could be deemed by the court as admitted.
· It is always a good idea to proof read your declaration. Make any necessary corrections. If your declaration was handwritten, do not write corrections in the margin. It could be rejected by the clerk.
Declarations can be difficult to write, but they are an important part of the family law process. Whether your case involves a divorce or child custody issue, an experienced family law attorney can help ensure your children and your property are protected. You can contact a knowledgeable family law attorney at Bohan Law, PLLC for a free hour consultation at 425-582-0167.