Writing good declarations is a key to winning at court. You MUST follow the required rules and keep to the relevant facts.
WHAT IS A DECLARATION?
A Declaration is a written statement you swear under penalty of perjury is the truth. You use Declarations to support motions you are filing, or as part of your response to a motion. The information in a declaration will help the judge make a decision on the motion. Anything the judge needs to know to make a decision at a hearing must be in a declaration for most motions. A declaration can help you:
• tell your side of the story
• explain your requests
• give needed facts to the count
• respond to someone else's arguments
Declarations may also include exhibits, which are attachments that support your claims
WRITING YOUR DECLARATION: CHECKLIST OF LEGAL REQUIREMENTS
Washington State has rules for the format and content of a declaration. If your declarations do not follow these rules, the court clerk may refuse to file them or may make you pay a fine. There may also be local court rules you must follow!!
● Use regular size (8 1/2 x 11") white paper.
● Use only one side of the paper.
● Leave 3 inches of space at the top of page 1.
● The other margins must be at least one inch wide.
● Use black or dark blue written or typed.
● The caption at the top of the first page must include:
○ the case number,
○ the court's name,
○ and the court paper's title,
● State the age of the person making the declaration is over 18
● Conclude the Declaration with: “I declare under penalty of perjury, under the laws of the State of Washington, that the foregoing is true and correct.”
● Final line: “Signed at (city, state) on (date).”
● Sign the declaration
● Just below the caption, type "DECLARATION OF (YOUR NAME)"
● Just below that, the body of your Declaration begins in regular font, beginning with the numeral one, as follows: 1. I am (age):____years old and I am the (check one) [_] Petitioner [_] Respondent [_] Other (relationship to the people in this case):
● Next, include the numeral two, and write the first thing you declare, beginning with the simple words, "I declare." Example: "2. I declare: I was present at (address) on (date) when (event) took place."
● Divide each main idea or event in your Declaration into separate numbered paragraphs.
WHAT IS AN EXHIBIT?
An Exhibit is a document of written proof attached to a declaration that helps prove what the declaration says. Such proof may be records such as bills, school records, medical records, or police records. If you make statements in your Declaration that could require proof, you should attach a copy of the bill labeled Exhibit 1, for instance, and be sure to make reference to Exhibit 1 at the end of the paragraph in your Declaration that pertains to the statement you need to prove.
PRACTICAL TIPS ON WRITING A DECLARATION
● Declarations should be as short as possible!
● Stick to the main points
● Most important points should be first
● Leave out anything unrelated to the motion
● Explain how well you know the parties, and for how long (if relevant)
● The declaration MUST be based on your own personal knowledge, not what someone else told you, except in instances where there is a need to describe what another party (not another witness) said to you.
● Type your declarations if possible
● Be specific. Broad statements like "the other party is a bad parent" is of little help. Descriptions of specific actions or inaction where expected help the judge to understand.
● Me very specific about
● time, and
● sequence of actions
● Explain events in a chronological order
● Use headings to organize the declaration
● Proof-read your declaration.
● Have a friend read it to make sure it makes sense
● Follow the court's instructions about using sealed cover sheets to protect confidential information.
More information on Declarations for Family Law on Washington Law Help, PDF
Written on 8-3-2020, the law may have changed after this date.
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This article was written by Doug Barrett and reviewed by Sarterus Rowe WSBA 47010