Author: Regina Franco
By law, spouses are subject to the general rules governing fiduciary relationships which control the actions of persons occupying confidential relations with each other. This confidential relationship imposes a duty of the highest good faith and fair dealing on each spouse, and neither shall take any unfair advantage of the other. Family Code § 721. This fiduciary duty arises on the date of marriage and does not end just because divorce proceedings have begun.
Among the issues requiring resolution through divorce is property division. In order to effectuate a division of property within the parameters of the law, parties must comply with the disclosure requirements of the Family Code. Parties are required to exchange complete and accurate declarations of disclosures listing all assets and debts in which a party has an interest regardless of whether the characterization of the asset or debt is separate or community property. When making disclosures, parties must uphold their fiduciary duties owed to each other and once disclosures are exchanged, the fiduciary duty requires that the parties update and augment their disclosures to the extent there have been any material changes so that when the parties enter into an agreement regarding property division, each has full and complete knowledge of the relevant underlying facts. Family Code § 2100.
The Court will not enter a judgment of divorce unless the disclosure requirements have been met. Completing and exchanging declarations of disclosures are not only a technical step to getting divorced, but a very serious requirement. A violation of the disclosure requirements or a breach of the fiduciary duty could result in an award of 100% of the undisclosed asset to the complying spouse or a set aside of a judgment of divorce. There is no question that full disclosure is not only best practice, but also is mandated by law.