Divorce Financials: The Lifestyle Analysis and the Search for Hidden Income or Assets

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Tracy explains the purpose of a lifestyle analysis in a divorce case, and the process used to analyze the family’s finances. The lifestyle analysis may be used to determine how much money is required to continue living the lifestyle the parties had while married. It may also be used to find hidden income or hidden assets, and Tracy discusses how she may uncover these items.

Divorce Lifestyle Analysis: Just Data Entry?

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A question often comes up relative to the lifestyle analysis in divorce cases: Isn’t is just data entry that anyone could do? Why do I need a forensic accounting expert?

As I explain below, the lifestyle analysis is NOT just a data entry exercise. A level of quality control is necessary in order to ensure that all transactions are included in the analysis and no transactions are duplicated. In larger cases, there may be enormous volumes of data to be managed, and the client needs an expert who can effectively handle the data. Also, the numbers must be categorized and analyzed. Sometimes estimates or judgment calls need to be made. That is the work of an expert.

Divorce Financials: Finding Hidden Income

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divorceIt is not unusual for the “out” spouse (the one who is not the major breadwinner in the family and who does not have control over the family’s finances) to suspect that income and assets are being hidden during a divorce.  When one party is accused of hiding income, how can a forensic accountant find it?

Below are a few techniques that I may use to uncover hidden income. A more in-depth discussion of this topic appears in Chapter 9 of my book, Lifestyle Analysis in Divorce, published by the American Bar Association. Continue reading

Lifestyle Analysis in Divorce Cases: Investigating Spending and Finding Hidden Income and Assets (Video)

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Tracy Coenen, author of “Lifestyle Analysis in Divorce Cases: Investigating Spending and Finding Hidden Income and Assets,” shares her insight on uncovering financial details to ensure that divorce settlements are fair and equitable. A forensic accountant and fraud investigator, Coenen wrote the book to arm lawyers with a powerful tool when valuing and dividing property in complex divorce cases.

The Business Lifestyle Analysis

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iStock_000019355019XSmallThis article was originally printed in the ABA Section of Family Law eNewsletter, April 2014.

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 a personal lifestyle analysis can also be applied to businesses to ferret out the truth about the money. Continue reading