Breach of Fiduciary Duties

In many ways a marriage is like a business partnership between two individuals. Therefore, it is appropriate that the legislature designed fiduciary duties, similar to those owed in business partnerships, for husbands and wives. Generally upon divorce, each spouse has the right to an undivided interest in one-half of the community estate. If the actions or omissions of the other spouse result in impairment to the other’s community property interest, he or she may have breached a fiduciary duty to that spouse. As a result, the injured spouse has a claim against the offending spouse for the breach.

During the divorce proceedings, each spouse has an ongoing duty to disclose his or her assets and debts. It is crucial to be forthcoming with this financial information throughout the process. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for one or both parties to hide or squander community assets. At the outset of your case we will meet with you to discuss your assets and debts. We will provide you with the necessary knowledge to handle your case with honesty and integrity. Providing sufficient evidence to prove a breach of a fiduciary duty has occurred is a difficult task and you should consult a seasoned attorney for advice in these matters. Our team of experienced attorneys is prepared to litigate your case in court and defend your rights.

San Diego family courts consider a breach of fiduciary duty a serious offense. The injured spouse may be awarded compensation for the amount the breaching spouse misappropriated in the form of money or other marital assets. However, in some instances more harsh consequences may be enforced against the breaching spouse. For example, the injured spouse may be awarded a particular community asset in full as a result of the other spouse’s breach. In one particular divorce case, the injured spouse was awarded a valuable piece of real estate in full because the other spouse attempted to transfer the jointly held property to himself.

Once the dissolution process is concluded, the parties will have either a judgment or agreement, which they must abide by. The judgment or agreement may contain orders regarding child support and/or spousal support. These ties keep divorced parties financially linked together until their children reach the age of majority and/or spousal support is terminated. California Family Code section 3664 allows parties receiving or paying support to request of the other updated financial information once every twelve months. However, California courts hold that, upon judgment of dissolution or a final settlement agreement, the parties no longer owe each other continuing fiduciary duties. This means that former spouses are not automatically obligated to disclose any significant change in their financial situation to the other. Only after a request has been made must a former spouse disclose any change to his or her financial situation.

Please contact us if you think your spouse is breaching his or her fiduciary duties, are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.