Why You May Need a Forensic Accountant for Your Divorce

In divorces where there are many high-value assets and ownership of or investment in a business, one or both spouses may find it helpful to hire a forensic accountant to identify and evaluate exactly what the couple owns.

The services of a forensic accountant are particularly worthwhile when the couple is at odds over how their property should be divided or when one or both spouses are suspected of hiding assets or downgrading their worth.

The job can prove to be extremely tricky, depending on the craftiness, dishonesty, or capability of a spouse. To avoid splitting an asset with a soon-to-be ex-spouse, husbands and wives have been known to fraudulently hide property, create false bookkeeping entries, misidentify assets, pad payrolls, unlawfully transfer interests to other people or dummy corporations, create fake debt, keep messy records or no records at all, and underreport annual income.

Expertise Needed In Contested Divorces

Forensic accountants are considered experts for purposes of a divorce case, and expert witnesses are permitted to testify in contested divorce actions on the value of a family business and each party’s potential share.

Experts also can testify as to each spouse’s future income earning potential and pension and retirement account values. When a prenuptial agreement is at issue, a forensic investigation can determine whether the terms of the agreement have been met and establish whether assets listed in the agreement were commingled with marital property or remained separate.

  • As an overview, the forensic accountant may be able to perform tasks, which include:
  • Identify all assets;
  • Categorize assets as marital or separate property; and
  • Give an asset a valuation, depending on the asset.

To conduct his or her job, the expert may perform a variety of investigatory services, including:

  • Search for hidden assets;
  • Search for hidden income;
  • Search for hidden bank accounts (such as off-shore accounts);
  • Search for hidden property (such as love nests purchased to conduct an extra-marital affair);
  • Search for assets forgotten or neglected and mistakenly left off the books;
  • Search for discrepancies in financial documents;
  • Determine the value of a business;
  • Sort personal expenses from business expenses despite how an expense may have been categorized by a spouse;
  • Calculate business cash flow;
  • Trace the ownership history of an asset to determine whether it is marital or separate property;
  • Review the reports filed by the forensic expert hired by the opposing party; and
  • Testify in court or at depositions.

Forensic Experts Fees

Keep in mind that a qualified and experienced forensic expert charges high fees, $300 an hour may be an average, and typically demands an upfront deposit of up to $5,000 to begin working on your case. There is no guarantee the expert will identify and locate assets you don’t already know about. Also, his or her valuation may likely be contested by the opposing party or possibly rejected by the court.

Contact A St. Louis Divorce Attorney

If you are contemplating divorce and suspect your spouse may have deliberately or fraudulently hidden assets you rightfully have an interest in, consult a lawyer to learn your legal options.Call (636) 552-4841‚Äč today for a Free Consultation and speak with Jay Galmiche, a seasoned St. Louis Divorce Attorney with 40 years of experience. The Galmiche Law Firm, P.C. serves the areas of Chesterfield, Ballwin, Town & Country, and Wildwood, Missouri, along with surrounding areas.

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