05 Oct

Why Investigate a Business During a Divorce?

Closely held businesses present special challenges in the family law setting. Typically, only one spouse is actively involved in the business. Therefore, not only does the spouse control the family’s finances, he or she also controls all of the records of the business. When a spouse is attempting to quantify the income from the business or the value of the business, the spouse who works actively in the business can purposely (and often very effectively) obstruct attempts to get accurate and complete data.

Certain types of businesses, such as restaurants and retail stores, can be prone to manipulation because they have so many cash transactions. Construction companies, real estate ventures, and auto dealerships are notorious for “creative” bookkeeping. Professional service providers, such as doctors, dentists, and attorneys are at risk for financial maneuvering because it is so difficult to verify the amount of professional services actually provided to patients or clients.

Any business that is closely held and has finances that are easily manipulated by the owner is at risk. If this happens, the “out” spouse is left looking for alternatives to get to the bottom of the finances.  Techniques used in the personal lifestyle analysis can also be applied to businesses to ferret out the truth about the money.

26 Sep

Hidden Assets in Divorce Cases

Hidden assets can impact both the property division and the award of support payments. Assets hidden by one spouse deprive the other spouse of a share of them. If the hidden assets include income-producing assets such as a business venture or an investment portfolio, the spouse receiving support may receive a lesser amount of support than he or she is entitled to.

Some of the most common personal and business assets hidden during a family law case include: Read More

13 Sep

What is a Divorce Lifestyle Analysis?

The divorce financial analysis is one very specific set of services that can be offered by a forensic accountant. The lifestyle analysis is the process of tabulating and analyzing the income and expenses of the parties. The lifestyle analysis is then used to determine the standard of living of the parties, which will influence support calculations, and maybe property division.

Calculating the lifestyle of the spouses prior to separation can provide insight on the lifestyle the married couple enjoyed and the cost of that lifestyle, as well as the income that is or was required to fund the lifestyle of the married couple. The results may be used to prove a spouse’s financial needs following divorce. In other words, a detailed analysis of the spending during the marriage can be the basis to calculate the funding the spouse needs to maintain a similar lifestyle after divorce.

The lifestyle analysis may also help confirm or refute income claims made by a spouse. If a spouse has declared income that is well below the cost of the lifestyle he or she is leading, the lifestyle analysis may suggest that undisclosed sources of income exist. It may also help identify previously undisclosed assets, which may have a substantial impact on the property division.

The lifestyle analysis is not only used to sort out the numbers post-separation. It may be used to evaluate the finances of each part at the time of a prenuptial agreement. If a party did not make a full and accurate disclosure prior to the signing of the premarital agreement, the spouse may attempt to have the agreement set aside. A prenuptial agreement can also be instrumental in the forensic accountant’s work post-separation, as it provides a starting point for the tracing of funds or assets.

04 Sep

The Forensic Accountant as Consultant

Forensic accountants are usually retained in family law cases as expert witnesses, with the intention that they will provide expert opinions and testimony on behalf of the client. Although retention as a consultant is less common, it is an important option to consider. Sometimes, the work of the consultant can be even more important than the work of the testifying expert. The consultant may be able to dig deeper into sensitive issues because there is no fear of testimony or of disclosing the consultant’s work.

Maintaining privilege
One of the biggest benefits to retaining a consultant is the fact that the consultant’s communications and work product enjoy privilege. Because the consultant is essentially an extension of the law firm, the identity of the consultant, the scope of work, the evidence examined, and the results of the work need not be disclosed to opposing counsel. (Note that documents examined by the consultant may very well need to be disclosed as part of the discovery process, but the consultant’s work or impressions of the documents should not be disclosed.) Read More

20 Aug

Tax Returns and Divorce Cases

One of the most common documents utilized in a financial investigation is the income tax return. It’s a key document in any divorce case, so the personal income tax return is always examined. And if there is a business, the tax return for that entity should be examined too.

What can we learn from the tax return? Maybe more than you imagine. Today I’m going to walk through the lines on the personal tax return (Form 1040) and some ways that these items can be analyzed to search for hidden income and hidden assets. Read More

23 Jul

Pay Support or Go to Jail?

Last week Dukes of Hazzard star John Schneider asked a judge to send him to jail because he can’t pay the spousal support he owes. Schneider apparently owes over $150,000 in alimony to his ex-wife Elly Schneider. He was previously sentenced to 3 days in jail for contempt for his failure to pay, but was let out right away because of jail overcrowding.

The court set certain conditions for him to avoid additional jail time, including paying Elly half of the earnings he is owed from Maven Entertainment, filing certain tax returns, and making certain financial disclosures.

But John would rather do time behind bars because he says he can’t pay. He says he’s taken out all sorts of loans and can’t do it anymore. When they divorced, he was ordered to pay nearly $19,000 per month in alimony. Read More

05 Jul

Determining Income in Divorce and Child Support Cases

When attempting to calculate the income of a party in a divorce or child support case, it is important to remember that income is not determined simply on the basis of historical earnings. It is necessary to also consider the future prospects for income, and how the income scenario may change following the divorce. For example, one of the spouses may encounter a job change with a related change in earnings. Even if a change is not the result of the divorce, it still must be considered as changes in earnings may change a spouse’s ability to pay support.

In evaluating historical income, it is necessary to consider whether historical income was abnormally high or low for some reason. For example, suppose a business run by the spouse had lower net income in the past because there was a substantial investment to increase the capacity of the business. The investment included operating expenses and depreciation of fixed assets, which lowered historical earnings, but created an opportunity for the company to generate higher income in the future. Thus, the projection of future earnings must not rely solely on the historical earnings, but must consider the future prospects for income. Read More

07 Jun

Terrence Howard and the Case of the Missing Spousal Support

Empire star Terrence Howard illustrates why it’s so important to pay up when the court orders you to pay spousal support. His divorce from Michelle Ghent has been interesting for years. Back in 2012, Howard signed a spousal support agreement, but later he said that he only signed it because Ghent was blackmailing him. A judge believed him and threw out the agreement.

Ghent appealed, and last year she won that appeal. The agreement was reinstated, so spousal support was back on.

And apparently Terrence Howard is awfully far behind in his payments to Ghent. Their agreement called for support of $5,800 per month plus additional amounts (up to $4 million per year!) depending on his earnings. Ghent is going to court to ask for $909,418 in back support. She says he hasn’t paid what he owes since she won the appeal, and that he’s hiding his income from the Empire series. She says he’s made $9.7 million from the show over the last 5 years. Read More