Puja Sachdev | August 15, 2022 | Family Law
Spousal privilege is a legal rule that says that a married couple can keep certain information from being revealed in court. This privilege is based on the idea that marriage is a private relationship and that spouses should be able to communicate freely without fear of their words being used against them. The privilege is not absolute, however, and there are some situations where it can be overcome.
Whether you or your spouse can claim spousal privilege in California depends on several factors. Speak with an experienced family lawyer today to learn more about your options and your legal protections.
California Spousal Privilege
Under California law, the spousal privilege can only be asserted by the spouse testifying. In other words, you cannot prevent your spouse from testifying. It’s entirely their choice.
The concept of spousal privilege is deeply rooted in English common law. In the early days of the American colonies, the English courts extended the privilege to cover spouses who were not married in a civil ceremony. The privilege was designed to protect the sanctity of marriage and to encourage couples to resolve their disputes without resorting to the legal system.
Ultimately, the California spousal privilege law provides some protection for married couples, but it is not absolute. There are certain situations where the privilege can be waived or overcome, and there are also some limitations to what types of information can be protected.
Exceptions To California Spousal Privilege
It is well-settled law in California that one spouse may not testify about confidential communications between the spouses during marriage. However, there are several exceptions to this general rule.
One exception is where the parties are seeking a divorce, nullity, or legal separation, and one spouse wants to use the privileged communications in order to prove the other spouse’s fault. In these cases, the party seeking to use the privileged communications must show that the communications are relevant to an issue in the case, and that there is no other way to obtain the information except through the testimony of the spouse.
Another exception to the spousal privilege is where the communication is offered to prove that a crime or fraud was committed. For example, if one spouse is on trial for murder, and the other spouse wants to testify that the defendant spouse had confessed to the crime, the spousal privilege would not apply and the testimony would be allowed.
Additionally, if the communication is being used in order to help one spouse keep information from the other spouse that could be used in order to disadvantage them during the divorce proceedings, then that communication is not protected under spousal privilege. This could occur if your spouse is seeking to withhold information about financial assets or bank accounts. Another exception to the rule is if the communication is being used in order to hide child abuse or domestic violence.
There are also a few other limited exceptions to the spousal privilege, such as where the communication is offered to prove that one spouse had a motive to commit a crime, or where the communication is relevant to an issue of child custody or visitation.
Speak With a San Diego Family Law Attorney Today
Going through a divorce is an emotionally charged process. Understanding whether your spouse can testify against you or use your statements made during your marriage in another legal preceding is complex.
To protect your legal rights and understand the options available to you, speak with an experienced family law attorney in San Diego.
Contact Our Family Law Firm in San Diego, CA
San Diego Divorce Lawyers, APC
2851 Camino del Rio S #430
San Diego, CA 92108