A divorce is a reality that many people must deal with. It can be messy and stressful, especially when sorting out complicated financial matters. Money is a common cause of contention in divorce proceedings, and sometimes a forensic accountant is needed to assess and determine the financial situation. A divorce is a lawsuit to legally end a marriage contract. Forensic accountants are often in news stories discussing high profile and high net worth divorces.
When billionaire couple Melissa and Bill Gates divorced, she hired a team of experts to advise her on ending the marriage and planning her future. The Gates did not have a prenuptial agreement, so when she decided to end their marriage, Melissa French Gates assembled a divorce team including financial experts to assess the value and liquidity of their companies and assets. But exactly how can a forensic accountant help you navigate your divorce?
What is a Forensic Accountant?
A forensic account is someone who analyzes accounting, audits, and uses their investigative skills to examine the finances of an individual, a couple, or a business. Part of their job entails tracing funds, identifying assets, and deciding on the debt of a company or individual. If there is hidden money or assets, a forensic accountant will find them.
A forensic accountant is often used in legal matters concerning fraud or embezzlement, but they are also helpful in divorce cases, particularly in divorce litigation cases. If you have a high-net-worth divorce, or if you think your spouse is hiding assets, for example, your divorce lawyers may recommend a forensic accountant to help you identify what marital assets exist and how to protect what is rightfully yours.
When Do You Need a Forensic Accountant?
Your New Jersey divorce attorney may hire a forensic accountant to sort out the finances of a married couple, especially if the marital estate has significant assets or debts, is high-net-worth, or if there are suspected hidden assets (such as cryptocurrency) or income streams.
Sometimes you need a neutral, but highly knowledgeable, 3rd party financial expert to sort through your marriage's finances.
There are numerous ways a forensic accountant can help with your divorce:
- To locate hidden assets
It is not uncommon for one or both spouses to ‘hide’ assets. An individual may feel that property cannot be divided if it does not exist.
- To identify joint assets and liabilities
You may need a forensic accountant to determine what you have and what you owe if you have a sizable marital estate.
- To appraise assets, businesses and properties
It can be challenging to determine the net worth of a company or multiple properties. You may need a business valuation to define the income correctly. A forensic accountant can sort out these details and present them to the courts.
- To recommend child or spousal support
Breaking down the income and expenses of each spouse will help the courts to decide the amount of child or spousal support.
- To assess bank accounts during the divorce
It can be tempting to empty bank accounts and hide money during a divorce. But a forensic accountant will see who took the money and if it was spent wisely.
- To determine the division of assets and liabilities
It can get sticky when trying to divide the assets and debts between a married couple. A forensic accountant can determine what each individual brought into the marriage and what was earned throughout their time together. Thus, making it easier for the courts to divide assets, properties, and debts.
Determining you may need a forensic accountant is the first step. The next step is to find one who has the experience you need.
How Do You Find a Forensic Accountant?
An experienced New Jersey family law attorney can recommend qualified forensic accountants. When deciding who to use, there are several items to consider:
- Their experience with divorce cases. You do not want to hire a forensic accountant specializing in criminal investigations.
- Their credibility in the community. As with any profession, some forensic accounts hold themselves to higher standards, and some like to cut corners.
- You will want a forensic accountant who is comfortable speaking in court and answering questions from opposing attorneys and judges.
- As much as we hate it, the cost may also be a deciding issue. Know what you can afford to spend for a forensic accountant.
Working with Your Divorce Attorney and a Forensic Accountant
The goal of a forensic accountant is to provide financial transparency. They will work to show all income and debts along with all assets and liabilities. They will help the courts determine child and spousal support and recommend how to divide everything.
It is certainly something to consider seriously when your attorney wants to bring in a forensic account.
Protect What Matters Most
Talk with an Experienced New Jersey Family Law Attorney
If you believe your soon-to-be ex-spouse may be attempting to hide money or assets, you need a fierce New Jersey Divorce and Family Law Attorney who will hire a forensic accountant to uncover any misdeeds. Our legal team will work hard to protect your finances in a complex divorce case. Our firm has repeatedly obtained favorable outcomes for our clients involved in high-net-worth, complex, and litigious cases.
Contact our attorneys at Stolfe Zeigler today at (732) 585-1651 to get started with an initial case evaluation.