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Asset protection and forensic accounting in divorce

For many couples, divorce is uncharted territory. Emotions may range from fear, bewilderment and distrust to anger and sorrow—all during the same day. High asset worth and child custody are two complications that heighten anxiety during a divorce.

An amicable divorce is desirable, but not always possible. Trusting spouses may discover too late that they left many assets on the table because of spousal financial infidelity. In cases where one spouse earns and holds the majority of marital assets while the other pays no attention to financial matters, it sets up the possibility that blind trust is not always wise. It is preferable for divorcing spouses to maintain confidence in each other, but verification of trustworthiness is not only acceptable, but also a sound procedure in divorce.

Experienced divorce attorneys may work with different professionals to protect their client. They can often recommend marital therapists, child psychologists or other types of services clients may need during divorce.

Certified forensic accounting

Most divorce attorneys work with forensic accountants, particularly in high-asset divorce cases. A forensic accountant is a CFF—a CPA certified to perform financial forensics. A CFF performs the economic equivalent of law enforcement detective work. Forensic accountants follow the trail of marital assets. Their expertise allows them to recognize subtle signs that one spouse is hiding assets from the other.

A forensic accountant can be useful even in cases where marital assets are modest. It never hurts to verify that the spouse handling finances is not tucking away income in a secret savings account or siphoning a few thousand dollars a year away from joint marital funds into private investments. A growing number of spouses hide assets during a divorce.

Fair asset discovery and distribution

Some of the valuable resources an attorney can provide through a CFF are:

  • Discover asset inconsistencies that point to marital asset fraud
  • Reveal suspicious financial activity throughout the term of a marriage
  • Value non-liquid assets such as artwork, jewelry, property and businesses
  • Testify about asset concealment in divorce court as an expert witness
  • Devise a fair, impartial separation or liquidation of joint assets

Settlement of complex financial holdings

Even when divorce asset lists are honest and above-board, high-asset portfolios may require a CFF to maximize dissolution and distribution to the involved parties. Media accounts of celebrity divorces, for example, can hint at the possible issues facing couples about to divide a large estate in divorce court. 

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