When most spouses are married most make a vow to be honest or “faithful” to one another. California, however, does not leave the duty to be honest and forthright to your marital vows. For example, California Family Code Section 721 places spouses in a fiduciary relationship with one another. A fiduciary relationship is one that business partners have between one another or that a lawyer has with a client. Specifically, 721: “imposes a duty of the highest good faith and fair dealing on each spouse, and neither shall take any unfair advantage of the other.”
In terms of a divorce or family law case this means that spouses must disclosure to each other almost any material fact: how much they really think an asset is worth, how much overtime they are getting, where the Swiss bank accounts are, everything.
Unfortunately, during a contested case, spouses are reluctant to fulfill this duty. To this end the California Family code provides that when one spouse breaches this duty they can be sanctioned by the court or the court can award 100% of the asset concealed. This means that when temper’s are flared during litigation you should be especially cautious to make sure that all disclosures are made and documented so that your compliance cannot later be mis-characterized and used against you. The experienced San Francisco based Bay Area attorneys of Jones & Devoy can help guide you through this process to ensure that your case and life are protected from dangers lurking in the family code.