Marriage is the union of two people, the foundation for the two to interweave their lives and begin building a future together. It is simultaneously a significant legal contract. Various laws are in place to ensure the two individuals are protected and fairly considered in other contractional scenarios and fiduciary duties. A California family law attorney can interpret the various and complex statutes under family law.
What Is Family Code 721 in the State of California?
To understand Code 721, it’s necessary to acknowledge the preceding section, 720. Code 720 directly states, “Spouses contract toward each other obligations of mutual respect, fidelity, and support.”
Section 721 further expands on this. Its components are broken down into the following:
- Either spouse can enter into a contract or transaction involving property, with each other or someone else, as if unmarried (subject to certain rules).
This simply means that neither person is limited to making contracts solely because of their marriage. They can proceed when selling assets or accumulating debt in the same manner as if they were unmarried people.
However, as mentioned, this is susceptible to rules about the intent of the spouses (and consequences if broken):
- Spouses are subject to the same rules regarding fiduciary relationships between persons joined in confidential contracts with each other.
This indicates that the individuals within the marital relationship are required to have a fiduciary duty to one another. In the scenario that spouses contract with each other, their fiduciary relationship has the same laws that apply to people who are unmarried and are in a contract together.
- The contractual relationship demands that each spouse will always deal fairly with each other and never take advantage of the other.
This explains that the confidential relationship of a married couple in a contract with each other imposes the same rules on them as those of a nonmarital business relationship. The spouses have the same duty to each other as shareholders, business partners, officers, directors, etc. This includes acting with their financial interests in mind in fair and honest dealings.
Some provided examples, not all, of circumstances applicable to this fiduciary relationship are outlined:
- Each spouse may always have access to any kept books regarding transactions, with the ability to inspect or make copies.
- If and when requested, either spouse may get all accurate information related to a transaction involving community property. However, there’s no court-imposed requirement for either person to keep meticulous records.
- As a trustee, any benefits/profits from a transaction by one spouse concerning shared property that was done without the other’s knowledge is to be disclosed and shared with the unconsenting spouse.
These specifications clarify that spouses cannot withhold or keep secret any documents regarding transactions. Each person must also make all documents or records about shared property available for inspection and copying. Neither can refuse requests to view said materials.
It also states that exhaustive bookkeeping is not required by law. Lastly, any benefit or profit from a transaction either spouse acted on alone and without the other’s consent must be disclosed by the offending spouse to the other.
Why Is Section 721 and Understanding it Important?
It is important to be informed of this Family Code if you and your spouse have or plan to go into business together or are otherwise contracted with one another. Understanding the statutory duties in these instances will help you avoid unintentionally infringing California law or recognize if you have been unlawfully taken advantage of.
When You May Need Counsel for Family Code 721
Family Code 721 is just one specification within all fiduciary duties spouses owe one another. If you believe yourself or your spouse to have violated any of the stipulations within Section 721, it would be wise to contact an attorney focusing on family law. Infringements could include secret bank accounts, taking financial advantage, or conducting transactions without the knowledge or approval of the other spouse.
Q: What Is Section 721 of the California Family Code?
A: Briefly put, Section 721 is a statute saying married couples are not prohibited from certain contracts or from contracting with each other due to their marital relationship. According to this, contracts between the two are determined by the same rulings of nonmarital contractual partnerships. It also describes the fiduciary duties spouses are required to uphold for each other.
Q: What Is the California Family Code?
A: The California Family Code is a collection of regulations and case precedents that pertain to and govern the legal obligations within a family unit. This code is a database of any and all happenings related to family law, including marriage, divorce, or child custody. It can aid in legal proceedings and in understanding the various laws specified for each subsection under family law.
Q: Is Cash Considered Property for Section 721?
A: Yes, cash is included in shared property under California law. Any assets or money accrued after the marriage began are considered marital funds and community property. That means hiding, mismanaging, or wasting marital assets is in violation of Section 721. This also includes using marital money to pay off separate, individual debts rather than paying with separate funds.
Q: What Is a Breach of Fiduciary Duties in Marriage?
A: A breach of fiduciary duties typically implies the selling, gifting, concealing, or fraudulent transfer of community assets done by one spouse against the consent or knowledge of the other. Someone taking financial advantage over their spouse is also considered a breach of duty under the Family Code. These breaches have consequences and punishments, as well as hold relevance in future divorce proceedings.
Consider Contacting an Attorney Well-Versed in Family Law
California Family Code and family law as a whole are complex and sometimes unclear as to whether circumstances apply or are considered a breach of duty. Contact the team at Khalaf Law Group today. We are educated in the vast breadth of family law and code and can rightly wield our experience in counseling your specific circumstances.