28 May

Income Available For Support

forensic-accountingThis article was originally printed in the ABA Section of Family Law eNewsletter, May 2013.

The issue of “income available for support” in divorces can be huge, particularly if only one spouse works. The issue gets complex if the earnings of one or both spouses are non-traditional. Regular wages are usually easy to evaluate in a divorce case, while income from businesses, real estate, and other investments become more complicated.

As a general rule, there is latitude in state courts when it comes to income and what is included or excluded for support calculation. There are general rules about the most common forms of income, but they don’t cover every issue and they all have a bit of “gray area” within them.

It is important to know the tricky kinds of income and cash flow that come up in divorces, as well as the varying views of how and why they should be included or excluded. Some of the types of income or expenses that may be treated differently from divorce to divorce and jurisdiction to jurisdiction include: Read More

14 May

ABA Section of Litigation’s Sound Advice: Dividing Shared Business Assets During a Divorce

Earlier this year, I recorded a Sound Advice podcast for the American Bar Association’s Section of Litigation.  When dividing shared business assets in a divorce, it is important to fully evaluate the finances of the businesses. It is impossible to fairly divide these assets if you do not dig into the financial details.

This podcast goes through the financial documents needed, including the tax returns (and which forms you should ask for, based on whether the business is a corporation, partnership, LLC, or sole proprietorship), the financial statements, and the detailed accounting records. Read More

21 Dec

Tax Fraud and Family Law

If you’re a family law attorney practicing in Wisconsin, you might want to consider attending a State Bar of Wisconsin CLE seminar being presented by Gregg Herman and Al Dassow on January 11, 2013. They’re talking about Tax and Tax Fraud Issues in Family Law.

Gregg Herman has been practicing family law since I was a little kid (he’s going to hate me for saying that), and I’m fortunate to run into him in my office building from time to time. He has blogs on family law issues, and I urge you to take a peek at his blog and put it into your RSS reader so you can keep up with it. He has been blogging faithfully for the better part of a year (no small feat!) and I am looking forward to reading more. Read More

03 Apr

Book Review: The Forensic Accounting Deskbook

The Forensic Accounting Deskbook by Memphis divorce attorney Miles Mason is billed as a guide to financial investigations for family lawyers. This designation sells the book short. The book is an outstanding guide to financial analysis and forensic accounting not only for attorneys, but also for accountants and fraud investigators. Professionals at any level – – from beginner to seasoned expert witness – – can learn much from this book.

The book is exceptionally well organized, with numerous guides and examples that can be used as templates or guides for your current cases. The Forensic Accounting Deskbook begins with an introduction to forensic accounting and engaging the right CPA for your case.  It then moves into accounting for lawyers, which is an excellent overview. Many of the common accounting buzzwords and catch phrases are defined, and knowing what these mean will be invaluable to the attorney. The more you know about the financial issues, the better you can advocate for your client. Read More

19 Mar

Finding Bank Accounts and Financial Records

I get asked all the time whether I can find hidden bank accounts around the world.  The answer is mostly no. Brian Willingham of Diligentia Group wrote a helpful article about this last year, entitled “Can a Private Investigator Get Bank Records or Account Information?”. His answer is also no.

There are laws in place to protect your financial privacy. So if a private investigator, forensic accountant, or other professional tells you that they can find hidden bank accounts, you can be assured that they are using dishonest and illegal means to do so. Read More

24 Feb

Are Divorce Lawyers Necessary?

Today the Wall Street Journal had a piece about the Texas Supreme Court considering whether to allow people to use fill-in-the-blank forms for divorces, potentially saving them a lot of money in legal fees. It is possible to handle your divorce pro se, but there is a concern that people are doing so to their own detriment.  In an effort to help do-it-yourself divorcees, 36 states currently have fill-in-the-blank forms for divorce.

It is simple to find forms to use in your divorce, but some attorneys say that this is a problem because divorcing couples don’t use the right forms, become a burden on the courts when they require hand-holding, and can make uninformed decisions during the process of the divorce. Read More

13 Feb

Discovery of Financial Documents in Family Law Cases

Recently, my very smart friend and colleague Randy Kessler, Esq. participated in a podcast called Show Me the Money: Helping Clients Find and Protect Assets in a Divorce for the American Bar Association  Journal. The podcast focused on finding (and keeping!) assets in divorce and child support matters.

I’ve written about finding hidden income in divorce cases, as well as performing a lifestyle analysis to prove that there are hidden earnings. The concealment of assets and earnings in a divorce case is a hot-button issue. It is important to get your arms around these issues early if you are to have a good chance of finding the money and getting your share of the money. Read More

01 Feb

Using Public Records in Financial Investigations

The internet is an important source of information in financial investigations. It has become so important, that I wonder what I ever did without access to all of this information! Even though my work is focused on digging into the details of financial records – – and many of those are private and not available online – – I still acquire a lot of information helpful to my investigations on the internet.

In Chapter 5 of my book Expert Fraud Investigation: A Step-by-Step Guide, I discuss sources of information for fraud investigations. There are entire books devoted to the process of finding and using public records and public information to aid in investigations, so naturally a chapter of a book can only scratch the surface. However, in that chapter and in this article, I’m going to begin to show you how you can find valuable information. Read More

13 Jan

Divorce Financials: Lifestyle Analysis in Family Law Cases

This article was originally printed in the ABA Section of Family Law eNewsletter, November 2011.

One of the chief concerns in a divorce or child custody case is identifying the true income of one or both of the parties. It is not unusual for such a case to include allegations of hidden income or assets. It is common for a closely held business to suspiciously encounter declining sales and profits following the filing of a family law case.

In each of these instances, properly determining the income of the party is critical to getting a fair and equitable settlement, maintenance award, or child support award. Until you have the correct numbers, the attorney may find it very difficult to decide what is fair or in the best interest of the client. Read More

08 Jun

Finding Hidden Income in a Divorce or Child Support Case

This article was originally printed in the ABA Section of Family Law eNewsletter, Feb/March/April 2011.

When a divorce or a child support issue is looming, it’s amazing how a quickly a closely held business starts “losing money.” I use quotes because such a situation is so predictable. One party wants to protect her or his assets, and when there is a business involved, the motivation to hide money can be stronger than usual.

The types of businesses that can be prone to manipulation of the books include restaurants, retail stores, doctor or dentist offices, construction companies, auto dealerships, and law practices. This list isn’t exhaustive by any means, but it provides good examples of businesses at risk of financial maneuvering. Read More