What is a Declaration?
Find out how you can get your written testimony, or the written testimony of someone who has information important to your case, before a judge.
- Please read this only if you live in Washington State.
- The information we give here is mainly for using declarations in a family law case. But it can also apply to other non-criminal (civil) types of court cases, too.
- If you are ready to make a Declaration, or ask others to do so for you, use our How to Write a Declaration in a Family Law Case packet. It has the Declaration form plus tips on how to make a good Declaration.
It is a written statement that you swear under penalty of perjury is the truth. “Swearing under penalty of perjury” means you understand that you can get in trouble if it turns out that your written statement is not true.
You make this statement if you have direct knowledge about the issues in a court case.
You usually use Declarations when filing or responding to motions in court.
The information in a Declaration can help the judge decide how to rule on the motion. At a hearing on a motion, the parties do not get much time to speak. You also usually cannot testify.
Anything the judge needs to know to decide on the issues in the motion should be in a Declaration.
If the judge has appointed a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) to your case, the GAL will often use the Declarations to understand the issues, help decide what is in the child's best interests, and to understand if a child has been harmed or would be harmed by living with a parent.
It depends on what happens during the case. If you are a petitioner or respondent, you may need to write your own Declaration at different pre-trial stages of the case.
A Declaration can help you tell “your side of the story,” explain your requests, give needed information, and respond to someone else’s Declaration.
It depends. Some courts limit the total number of pages you can file.
Ask the court clerk or, if your county has one, the family law facilitator about length of Declarations.
Some courts limit the number of Declarations they will accept. Ask the court clerk or, if your county has one, the family law facilitator.
It is a “written proof document” attached to a Declaration that helps prove what the Declaration says.
Examples: Bills, school records, medical or treatment records, law enforcement records, etc.
Some counties say “attachment” instead of “exhibit”. Your county may have its own rules for using exhibits or attachments.
You should label the papers you attach to your Declaration Exhibits and number (1, 2, 3) or letter (A, B, C) them. Some exhibits need a sealed records cover sheet. We explain more below.
You should file the originals of signed Declarations with the court and serve copies to other parties with the motion, of you are filing a motion, or with the response or reply to the motion, if that is what the Declarations are related to.
You can ask people who have directly seen, heard, or otherwise witnessed important events to write Declarations explaining what they know, such as:
- Scout leaders
- Law enforcement officers
It depends, but it is true that the judge may give more weight to a neutral person or professional than someone obviously supporting only one side of the case.
Teachers, counselors, and/or other such professionals may need a signed release of information form before writing a Declaration.
No. Judges usually do not admit Declarations as evidence at a trial. Usually, your witnesses must appear in person.
A few counties might allow or require live (oral) testimony at motions hearings. Ask the court clerk what your local court rules say about this.
Be careful when thinking about who to ask for a Declaration.
The judge or the other party might then have the right to ask someone who wrote a Declaration for you about other information they may have about you or the child.
You do not usually need more than one witness to say the same thing. If several witnesses would say the same things, choose just 1 or 2 to write a Declaration.
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