Can a Marital Settlement Agreement be used instead of a FL160 Property Declaration form? 3 Answers as of March 18, 2011

My wife served me with divorce papers. I do not plan to respond or contest it. We have drafted and notarized a Settlement agreement. (We only have 2 cars to divide) She said she will include this agreement with the paperwork she files. In her petition she checked the box saying she has attached the FL160 (Property Declaration) There was no FL160 attached. She said this was the same as the Marital Settlement Agreement. Is that true? Will it matter? If she knows I’m not responding and files an FL160 rather than the MSA we agreed to, can I get taken? Will that override the MSA? Thank you.

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Michael Apicella
Michael Apicella | Apicella Law and Mediation
If you both signed the MSA, then that is the document that should be filed with the court. If you are finishing your divorce by "default with agreement," then there are certain forms to file, and certain forms not to file. I suggest you call the legal self help center at your local courthouse, or call a lawyer and have him/her help you put all the final paper together properly, so there are no problems down the road.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 3/18/2011
Warner Center Law Offices of Donald F. Conviser
Warner Center Law Offices of Donald F. Conviser | Donald F. Conviser
The MSA isn't the same as your wife's Property Declaration. The clerk wasn't careful when he/accepted the Petition that said it had an attached Property Declaration. You would be safest to file a Response instead of risking your wife taking your default. The cost isn't so much, and the protection is worthwhile. The FL160 is a unilateral document - your wife's property declaration. The MSA is a joint document. The FL-160 won't override the MSA. If you don't trust that your wife knows the law, or that she'll do what she says she'll do, you should minimize your risks, because you could be taken if your wife takes your default, and it would be expensive for you to try to get a default set aside. Both of you will need to exchange Preliminary Declarations of Disclosure, and unless you and your wife sign an appropriate waiver, you and she will need to exchange Final Declarations of Disclosure. The case didn't end with the MSA, and there are things that still need to be done. You would best consult with an experienced Family Law Attorney regarding your options in this case
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 3/18/2011
Law Office of L. Paul Zahn
Law Office of L. Paul Zahn | Paul Zahn
If she checked the property declaration and doesn't file it, the court will reject the Judgment packet (most likely). The purpose of the Property Declaration is different than that of a Marital Settlement Agreement. The Marital Settlement Agreement advises the court of the terms of the settlement. The property declaration only advises the court (and you) of what property the court should have jurisdiction over when entering a judgment. The property declaration is not part of the Judgment. My advice: have her file the FL-160 and list all property included in the Marital Settlement Agreement.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 3/17/2011
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