Bank statements can be a very valuable tool in child support and divorce cases, particularly when one party has not been forthcoming about income and expenses. We can look at deposits to draw conclusions about income, and the level of expenditures may also give us clues about the level of income. Tracy talks about some of the ways she analyzes the bank statement data.
How is a lifestyle analysis used in a divorce case? Attorney Miles Mason discusses how he uses the report, more specifically the numbers that he is most concerned about.
While consumers generally hate income tax returns because of their complexity, they can be invaluable sources of information in divorce proceedings. Not only do they provide insight into prior years’ earnings, they can also point to assets and sources of income. They may be used to unearth financial information that a spouse omitted from the financial disclosures, and can hold subtle clues to otherwise unknown financial details.
For example, assets are sometimes sold by the spouses to generate cash. Many times this may be a taxable transaction reported by the purchaser to the taxing authorities. Therefore, such a transaction will be required to be reported on the income tax return, and this may help unearth a hidden asset or provide clues to concealed cash.
Information on income and assets can be found within the personal income tax returns in the following areas:
In this video, Tracy Coenen explains the purpose and process behind doing a lifestyle analysis in a divorce case. There are three main reasons why a lifestyle analysis may be done:
- To determine the amount of money needed to continue living a lifestyle consistent with the lifestyle enjoyed during the marriage (This relates to child support and alimony.)
- To find hidden sources of income
- To find hidden assets
Experienced family lawyers are familiar with the common ways spouses attempt to commit financial fraud in divorce: hiding or undervaluing assets, overstating debts, concealing income, and inflating or fabricating expenses. All of these are done in an attempt to get more than the spouse’s fair share in the property division, and to influence the amount of support that will be paid or received.
Successfully advocating for your client involves more than just knowing that these things occur during the divorce process. You must also be able to identify the red flags that indicate the financial issue(s) must be investigated further. Some are easier to spot than others, but once you have identified two or three red flags, it is time to get a forensic accountant involved. The financial analyst’s experience with fraud and deception will be invaluable in evaluating the red flags and determining if there is something of substance to investigate further.
The most straightforward red flag is the discovery of undisclosed accounts. This could be direct evidence of a spouse attempting to conceal assets. However, the nature of the undisclosed account should be examined. Is it an old account that hasn’t been used in a long time? Is there little to no activity in the account? Is the balance in the account insignificant? In these situations, little weight should be given to the non-disclosure, since it is more likely an oversight.
Each state has its own guidelines for calculating spousal support. Generally, factors which may be considered in determining alimony include:.
- The length of the marriage
- The needs of the recipient
- The relative earnings of each party
- Career sacrifices made to benefit the family (i.e. one parent gave up a career to raise children or one spouse worked so the other could complete a college degree)
- The earning capacity of each party
- The ability to pay spousal support
- The lifestyle of the spouses during the marriage
- The age of the parties
- The property divided by the spouses
- The ability of the recipient to earn income in the future
In high net worth divorce cases, there are often large volumes of data. The lifestyle analysis will rely on a detailed examination of bank, credit card, and investment statements. High levels of spending mean a large amount of data. In this video, Tracy explains how to manage and accurately evaluate the data.
A divorcing couple has a premarital agreement, so everything is simple when it comes to dividing assets and paying maintenance, right? Of course not. Premarital agreements are rarely simple, and they become even more complicated when the language in the agreement is imprecise.
This high net worth divorce case study provides some important insights into the process of completing a lifestyle analysis and calculating support. In this case, an imprecise premarital agreement led to problems in analyzing the marital lifestyle, excluding certain questionable expenses, and calculating future needs.
Marital Standard of Living
Premarital agreements typically speak to the factors to be considered in calculating maintenance, including the length of the marriage, the method for calculating the spousal support, and the lifestyle or the marital standard of living of the couple and their children. Unfortunately, there are many situations that are never contemplated when premarital agreements are written, so they aren’t addressed in the agreements.
The most hotly contested area is the standard of living, as this item is often elusive and subjective. In our high net worth divorce case study, the parties’ premarital agreement provided that the recipient spouse was to receive spousal support for three years in an amount to support her in the standard of living enjoyed by the parties during the last three years of the marriage.
When calculating child support or alimony obligations, “income available for support” is an important concept. In this video, Tracy talks about some of the issues that may arise when evaluating income.
Income tax returns are an important piece of financial information in a divorce or child support case. There is so much information that can be obtained from the tax returns, and if we have several years of data, we can make comparisons from year-to-year. In the video below, Tracy talks about the financial data she analyzes on the income tax returns and what these items may tell us about the financial situation of the family.