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Trust but verify: Forensic accounting and divorce

Divorce is seldom a familiar process to the average couple. Each split is unique to a couple's circumstances. Determinants can be the length of an existing marriage, who desires the divorce, whether children are involved and many other factors. 

Some cases are more straightforward than others due to having fewer factors, leading to a simpler process. Those with a more complicated situation may need to utilize additional resources to ensure a fair outcome.

Components of a simple divorce

A simple divorce generally takes place when marital property is modest. A divorce can still be simple in the legal sense even when parties are hostile, and the divorce drags slowly along. Most simple divorces will usually involve one or more basic legal areas:

  • Property division
  • Alimony
  • Child custody and support
  • Child visitation schedule

Complex divorce and high-asset protection

Complicated marital property issues in high-asset divorces can cause contention. Both parties in a divorce should possess a complete set of asset and debt records, either originals or copies, for their respective legal representatives.

Even when the divorcing couple believes each other to be honest, a forensic accountant should review a high-asset divorce case. If possible, look for a CPA certified in financial forensics (CFF). Unfortunately, a high-asset divorce can provide great temptation for one spouse to hide assets. The unsuspecting spouse could have prevented the ensuing financial disaster by adhering to the motto, "Trust but verify." The CFF accountant can:

  • Identify hidden assets and suspicious financial inconsistencies
  • Assess the merits of long-term settlements and debt liquidation
  • Inventory all physical assets, including items such as jewelry or art investments
  • Appraise real estate properties and businesses
  • Act as an expert witness in divorce court

Even if asset fraud is not an issue, high-asset situations can be exceedingly complicated. The services of a good forensic accountant can make a significant difference in the amount and method of a divorce settlement. 

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