What is the Role of a Forensic Accountant in a Divorce?

St. Charles Divorce Attorneys

A forensic accountant is an accountant who uses his or her expertise to conduct an investigation of an individual, group, or company's financial past. In a divorce, a forensic accountant may aid the court by examining the couple's financial history and current financial outlook to determine an appropriate way to divide their property and fair child support and spousal support amounts. If one party suspects that his or her spouse is hiding assets in an attempt to keep them from being divided in the divorce, a forensic accountant may be asked to investigate this. "Forensic" simply means "suitable for the court of law." When a forensic accountant investigates a married couple's finances, the accountant's findings may be submitted to the court for consideration. Talk to your divorce lawyer about what a forensic accountant may and may not do, how the data he or she obtains may be used, and what you should do to prepare for a forensic accountant's investigation of your assets.

How to Find the Right Forensic Accountant

Many divorce and family lawyers have forensic accountants in their professional networks. This is because forensic accountants frequently work with divorce lawyers to determine their clients' true financial situations during the divorce process. A forensic accountant is often just one of the professionals a divorce lawyer asks for help with a client's divorce. Usually, a divorce is a team effort. Other professionals who may be asked to help with your divorce include a real estate appraiser, a child custody evaluator, and a financial adviser.

Ask your lawyer about working with a forensic accountant to determine whether your former spouse is hiding assets or if there are any debts or other financial concerns attached to your name. When you are working through a divorce, it is critical that you are 100 percent aware of the information that is being passed between your lawyer and the court. Knowing every detail of your financial history and current net worth with your spouse can keep you from being blindsided in court when the time comes to divide your assets.

Not every divorce involves a forensic accountant. In collaborative divorces, there generally is no need for one – the couple has ideally worked through their property division before sitting down to determine their divorce settlement terms. Even in other types of divorce, such as divorces through mediation or litigation, a forensic accountant's help might not be necessary if both parties are fully aware of their financial circumstances and neither is suspected of hiding assets. A forensic accountant is brought in only if one of the lawyers involved deems his or her services to be necessary. Forensic accountants can charge high hourly rates, so whether it would be feasible or even necessary to involve one in your divorce is something you should discuss with your lawyer.

How a Forensic Accountant Can Help You

In short, a forensic accountant helps both parties involved in a divorce by forcing them to be financially transparent. In some marriages, one party manages the couple's finances and the other is often unaware of the details of their financial life. In other couples, both parties maintain independent bank accounts or each might manage a specific portion of their financial life. A forensic accountant compiles all relevant information so the court can see the whole picture of a couple's marital net worth.

A forensic accountant can also pinpoint inconsistencies between the couple's financial records, which can be due to an oversight or due to an attempt to hide assets. If a partner is hiding assets, a forensic accountant can locate those assets and prevent them from being concealed during the property division process.

If you or your spouse own a small business, a forensic accountant can also help your divorce by determining a fair value for the business and helping you decide how to handle the business during and after the divorce.

Work With an Experienced St. Charles Family Law Firm

When a couple gets divorced, their assets are divided equitably between them. The court cannot determine an equitable division of a couple's assets if it does not know the extent of their asset pool. Sometimes, it is necessary for a forensic accountant to help the court determine this by investigating the couple's assets. To learn more about a forensic accountant's role in the divorce process, call 630-584-4800 to speak with an experienced Kane County divorce attorney from Goostree Law Group. We can answer your questions and help you make productive choices for your divorce and your future. Contact our St. Charles family law firm today to schedule your initial legal consultation.

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