The divorce process can run the gamut from conflict-filled and full of negative emotion to straightforward and amicable. Yours will be somewhere in between the two. The goal of the divorce is to dissolve the marriage, and that includes divvying up all the assets. Sometimes you need a forensic accountant to move the process along. Sometimes, you don’t.
What is a Forensic Accountant?
If you drive down the main street of any town, you will see business signs advertising accountants. In fact, you will probably see many. Run a simple Google search in your city for accountants and you’ll probably get dozens, if not hundreds, of results. But, are they all the same?
Just like any profession, accountants specialize in specific areas of, well, accounting. Some may be tax experts while others like to focus on pensions, some preferring small businesses while others dealing exclusively with individuals and their taxes. In all cases, these professionals have completed the requirements for certification and they maintain a license to offer this service to the public. However, a further specialization exists where an accountant is certified to provide very specific, detailed financial analysis and documentation that can be used in court. This is a forensic accountant.
When do you need a Forensic Accountant?
One of the special talents of the forensic accountant is to examine documents and financial records for their contents as well as for what is missing from their contents. In other words, this type of accountant is trained to sift through financial records to determine that they are accurate and properly prepared as well as what is missing from them.
Two of the things that are revealed during a divorce is each party’s income and assets, which are then categorized as marital or separate for the purposes of dividing up each person’s share. Sometimes, one party is not forthcoming with documents and information and there may be a question as to how much of an asset exists or whether there may be more of it. In other words, one party may be potentially hiding assets so as to keep them from being part of the divorce settlement.
Let’s lay this out on the table right here: hiding assets is going to get you into more trouble than you would otherwise be in. Don’t do it! If you think that your spouse is hiding assets, be sure that you share your suspicions with your Findling Law lawyer [INSERT CONTACT LINK] right away.
What types of “hiding” could be going on?
In an article in Forbes magazine, contributing writer, Jeff Landers, shares a short list of what might be considered “hiding” assets, including:
– Not reporting all income
– Paying creditors more than necessary
– Creating fake debt
– Buying expensive items with cash that has been stashed away
– Setting up dummy corporations and moving assets to them
– Paying wages or salaries to employees who don’t exist
These are just a few examples of how assets can be hidden and how one party to the divorce can end up never seeing this money, a fair share of it, or even any trace of it. This can happen when it comes to reporting income, too.
Forensic accountants are often valuation specialists and can help to assign a real-life value to assets that the married couple has or has had. This can come in very handy to determine actual values when it is otherwise hard to do, like when a business might need to be sold or shared between the two parties.
And, if a premarital agreement existed, it may be helpful to include a forensic accountant on the divorce team to help trace back all the money and assets to determine that they were not commingled and that the agreement was fulfilled as agreed upon at the beginning of the marriage.
You Don’t Have to Decide
A lot of the financial review involved in your divorce will be handled by your legal team here at Findling Law. However, in some circumstances, a forensic accountant might be needed where the long-term effects of financial, pension, or tax implications have to be considered to keep you financially safe, both now and well into the future. You don’t have to know if – or when – it is time to bring in a forensic accountant. Your lawyer will do that. However, you have to share any suspicions you have that your spouse could have hidden or misrepresented assets or values in any financial records. It’s up to you to have that conversation with us so that we can bring closure to your marriage knowing that every aspect of your finances was properly attended to.
About Findling Law
Findling Law, PLC – 414 W. 5th St. Royal Oak, Michigan 48067
I have been exclusively practicing divorce and family law in Michigan for over two decades. The attorneys at Findling Law all share the core value of practicing law to help people navigate change in their lives, without compromising principles. We specialize in high socio-economic, high-profile and high-conflict cases, while also working with clients of all backgrounds. We recognize that the most important aspect of the practice of law is the application of the law to your specific circumstances.That is why we provide more free information on divorce and family law than any other Michigan law firm. We want to help you manage your situation. Allow our exceptional legal team to help you navigate the change in your life, without compromising principles.
By: Daniel Findling
Forensic Accounting Investigation in Divorce – When is it Warranted?