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Neither Fam. Code, § 2107, subd. (c), nor Fam. Code, § 271, subd. (a), sets forth any requirement of separate injury to the complaining spouse as a precondition to the imposition of sanctions. Fam. Code, § 2107, subd. (c), indicates that sanctions are to be imposed to effectuate compliance with the laws that require spouses to make disclosure to each other. The statute is not aimed at redressing an actual injury. Fam. Code, § 271, subd. (a), authorizes sanctions to advance the policy of promoting settlement of litigation and encouraging cooperation of the litigants. This statute, too, does not require any actual injury. Indeed, as expressed in Fam. Code, § 2100, subd. (b), the legislature has indicated that sound public policy favors the reduction of the adversarial nature of marital dissolution and the attendant costs by fostering full disclosure and cooperative discovery. In light of this legislatively expressed intention, the authority to impose sanctions for nondisclosure is plainly aimed at effectuating the goal of reducing the adversarial nature of marital dissolution rather than at redressing any actual harm inflicted on the complaining spouse.
Aaron (husband) and Elena (wife) were married in 1969 and separated after 34 years of marriage. Elena filed a petition for dissolution of marriage in August 2003. The trial court required the husband to pay sanctions and attorney fees based on his nondisclosure of financial information in a marital dissolution proceeding. During the marriage, the husband created a large number of privately held companies of substantial value. The parties disputed their characterization as separate or community property. The husband provided responses to interrogatories and a schedule of assets and debts. The wife alleged that the husband failed to disclose financial transactions that included the purchase of a personal residence through one of his companies, the existence of several entities, the purchase of a bond, and the existence of a 401(k) account. The trial court, in sanctioning the husband, found that he intentionally sought to circumvent the disclosure process and frustrated the policy of promoting settlement. The husband appealed from the trial court's order requiring him to pay sanctions and attorney fees based on his nondisclosure of financial information to the wife.
Did the trial court abuse its discretion in imposing sanctions?
The court concluded that the husband failed to meet his obligations under Fam. Code, §§ 1100, subd. (e), 2100, subd. (c), 2102, subd. (a), 2103, 2104, subd. (c)(1), (2), to disclose material information. The trial court did not abuse its discretion under Fam. Code, §§ 271, subd. (a), 2107, subd. (c), in imposing sanctions. Proof of injury to the wife was not necessary, and she was not required to move under § 2107, subds. (a), (b), to compel disclosure or to preclude evidence before seeking sanctions.