Families Change Guide to Separation & Divorce

3.9 - Fiduciary Duty

3.9 - Fiduciary Duty

In California, the relationship between spouses and domestic partners is treated like a relationship between professional business partners. 

California laws create a duty for each spouse or domestic partner to be open, complete, and accurate in their dealings with each other regarding the family’s assets and debts. Having this “fiduciary duty” to each other means that spouses and domestic partners must provide each other access at all times to any books or records about their finances, the property that they own together, and any profits earned (or debts resulting) from the use of that property. It also means that it is unlawful for one spouse or partner to take unfair advantage of the other, even though he or she might be primarily responsible for managing and controlling the family’s property and finances.

The “fiduciary duty” between spouses and domestic partners continues after separation. In fact, soon after filing for divorce or legal separation, California law requires parties to make a full disclosure to each other about their assets and debts, income and expenses after the case is filed in family court. They also must continuously update this information if it changes while the case is proceeding in court.

You will learn more about disclosure requirements later on in the course.

For now, it is important to remember the fiduciary duty you have to your spouse or domestic partner as you begin the process of separating your finances.