Well, in the two states that I practice in, there is a duty of disclosure and the law has evolved over the years going back to the earlier chapters in my family law practice. You had to make an affirmative demand for information from the opposing spouse in a divorce or dissolution, in order to require them to disclose. So you might have to go to let’s say a wife and say tell us about every bank account you have.
Nowadays, and for quite some time now, the law has shifted in both states to where each spouse has an affirmative duty to disclose everything that they know about the nature, the character, the value, the liabilities of community assets, debts, and separate assets. How do we get that information? There is a process called discovery, that’s the investigative phase of family law litigation.
But during that process to give you more specific examples in Nevada through a financial disclosure form, and in California through both a preliminary and final declaration of disclosure, spouses have an affirmative duty to represent everything they have, everything they know, everything relevant about community property and separate property. Failure to do so carries very powerful consequences.
To give you an example, and this is obviously a case that very few California family lawyers will ever forget, the courts out of Los Angeles County decided that years ago that when a husband used a dollar from a community savings account or chequing account that existed on the date of separation, and then after separation bought a California lottery ticket, and then hit the California for millions and millions of dollars; the failure of the husband to disclose that event to the wife, and those facts to his wife, resulted in the court awarding not half, not a community share of the winnings to the aggrieved wife, but 100% of the lottery winnings because of the husband’s failure to disclose. The trial judge’s decision to award 100% as a sanction, as a penalty, was upheld by the higher court. So, being transparent in divorce is very, very important and your failure to do so carries very powerful consequences.
Leslie Shaw practices family law in both California and Nevada, and has been involved in close to 1,000 family law matters largely involving litigation throughout his 40 year career. He is also a Certified Family Law Attorney, a status granted by the California Board of Legal Specialization.