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On the playground, our relationships with one another are guided by the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This is where we learned to take turns with the jump rope, to push each other on the swings, and to jump off the slide when we reached the bottom to make room for the next kid.

In a marriage in California, however, we are held to an even higher standard than that of the Golden Rule: that of a fiduciary. Being a fiduciary to your spouse brings with it a moral, ethical, and legal obligation to act in good faith, to ensure fair dealing, and to avoid taking unfair advantage of the other. It is a heavy responsibility that impacts all elements of the relationship: the documents you keep, the information you share, and the choices you make.

In most cases, a rule like fiduciary duty only takes center stage when it has been broken. So what does a breach of fiduciary duty mean under California Family Law? Let’s take a closer look at when this duty applies, what it covers, and the penalties that exist under California law to hold spouses accountable to one another—both during the marriage and while separated.

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If you are in the process of going through a divorce, you probably have a million questions running through your head. Some of these are practical, like who will keep the dining room set and where you filed all those important papers so long ago. Others are emotional, like how best to tell your friends, family, and co-workers and if this should have happened sooner or not at all. And some are financial, like whether you will be paying or receiving some money to help your partner or yourself live like you used to. 

One question you should not have to puzzle for long is what to call it: spousal support vs. alimony. Simply put: spousal support is the California legal system’s term for alimony. But how did we get here, and what does it really mean for you? Let’s take a look at its history, how it works in California, and what else you may need to know during this complicated time of life.

A Quick History of Spousal Support

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