Fiduciary duty essentially means a duty to act responsibly toward money you have control over or access to. Business partners have a fiduciary responsibility toward one another and any shareholders. Trustees have a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries of the trust. And, husbands and wives have a fiduciary duty to one another with regard to marital assets.
It is becoming more common in California divorce cases for one spouse to claim that the other spouse wasted marital assets, thereby violating (or breaching) the fiduciary duty. If the spouse can prove breach of fiduciary duty during the divorce proceedings, then the he or she may be entitled to compensation for the amount of money wasted.
Breach of fiduciary duty claims are very difficult to prove in divorce cases. If you are contemplating divorce and think you may have a valid claim for breach of fiduciary duty, consult a seasoned divorce attorney with experience bringing and defending breach of fiduciary duty claims.
Santa Clara family law attorney Thomas E. Bouman has practiced family law in Silicon Valley and Northern California since 1984. At the law office of Thomas E. Bouman, Attorney at Law, each client works directly with Mr. Bouman and receives the benefit of his decades of focused family law practice.
Our law firm has significant experience representing clients in divorce cases where financial issues are hotly contested, including divorce proceedings where either the husband or wife claims breach of fiduciary duty or wasting of marital assets. Contact our office to schedule a private phone consultation with Mr. Bouman.
What Are Examples of Breach of Fiduciary Duty in a Marriage?
When a spouse takes actions that waste marital assets – uses them for a purpose other than to benefit of the marriage – it may be a breach of fiduciary duty. These claims are difficult to prove, however, because the breaching spouse can always claim that he or she made an honest mistake.
Questions we have heard regarding mismanagement of marital funds include:
- My wife used our joint bank account and racked up thousands of dollars in gambling debts. Can she be penalized?
- My husband had an affair and used our joint credit card to pay for vacations with his girlfriend (or to pay rent on the girlfriend’s apartment). Shouldn’t he have to pay that money back?
- We have a stock portfolio that we built up during the marriage but it’s only in my wife’s name. Just recently, she sold all our blue-chip stocks and invested all the money in a friend’s new business, which failed. Is that an honest mistake or a breach of fiduciary duty?
Sanctions Are Strong in Breach of Fiduciary Duty Cases
If the spouse can prove breach of fiduciary duty to the court’s satisfaction, the penalties can be harsh. For this reason, it is important to seek early legal advice from a knowledgeable divorce lawyer if you wish to claim or defend against a claim of breach of fiduciary duty during a marriage.
To learn more and receive advice about your specific circumstances, contact the Santa Clara law office of Thomas E. Bouman, Attorney at Law, today.