Q: What obligations do I have to my spouse during divorce proceedings?
There are three duties that spouses owe to each other during a divorce proceeding.
Spouses have a duty to make a full disclosure to the other spouse of all assets and debts that the other spouse may have an interest in. Your spouse has an interest in all property and debts that you acquired during the marriage except for gifts and inheritances. For example, trying to hide stocks or savings account that you acquired during the marriage would violate the duty to disclose.
The second duty is the duty to account. To “account” means to make available all information that you have concerning the value and character of any assets or debts that you have. For example, telling your accountant not to speak to your spouse or hiding tax returns would violate the duty to account.
Lastly, spouses have a duty to obtain consent of the other spouse when making gifts, selling property, or “encumbering” property. Property can become “encumbered” in many ways such as taking out a mortgage or giving someone else permission to use the property.
Failing to meet these duties can result in losing part of your share when the community property of you and your spouse is divided, having to pay for your spouse’s divorce lawyer, or even criminal liability. It is important to tell your lawyer everything you know about your assets and debts in order to avoid the serious risks that not meeting your spousal obligations can have.