Tracy talks with Miles Mason, JD, CPA about some of the common financial lies told by spouses during divorce.
Posts Tagged ‘family law’
Below is a one minute clip of a portion of a video I did on accounting services in divorce and family law cases. I discuss the work that a CPA can do in divorce cases.
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.
This article was originally printed in the On Balance, the magazine of the Wisconsin Institute of CPAs, March/April 2013.
Divorce and child support cases often are highlighted by disputes over money. One party may be accused of artificially depressing earnings, hiding assets or manipulating the finances to lower the financial obligation to another party. Understanding the complete picture of the finances is necessary before a fair settlement can be reached.
Chicago divorce attorney Jeffrey Knipmeyer, partner at Nottage & Ward, cautions that spouses of individuals hiding income and assets rarely have the financial sophistication to recognize that manipulation is occurring. He adds that during the marriage, they typically have been hands-off, and their only knowledge of the finances depends on what the spouse has communicated.
Family law cases often focus heavily on financial issues. Whether the parties to a case are of modest means or great wealth, both sides want their own version of what is fair. Unfortunately, this can lead one or both parties to hide income and assets. With the help of a financial expert, counsel can identify income and assets that might otherwise go undiscovered, and hopefully reach an equitable end to a divorce or child support case.
Sources of income and assets owned can be identified with the right documentation. Attorneys need to be familiar with some of the most common financial documents so they know what to request. Attorneys with financial knowledge can also help identify issues that may need further analysis in a family law case.
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.
Everyone knows about the typical sources of financial information in divorces. Income tax returns, bank statements and related documents, brokerage statements, credit card statements, and business financial statements are some of the most common.
There are alternative sources of financial information that can be incredibly helpful in divorce cases, however. They are helpful because they can refute or support claims being made by one party about income and assets. They are particularly helpful because often, the other side isn’t prepared for these documents to become part of the divorce case.
One way to foil your spouse’s plans to hide income and assets from you during your divorce is by being aware of some of the schemes that can be used. It is very common for one spouse to have control over the money in the marriage, be the major breadwinner, control the spending of the money, and maintain control of financial documentation.
The spouse in the lesser financial position must take immediate proactive steps to protect herself or himself in the divorce. One of these steps is understanding some of the common schemes that may be used hide assets and income. By knowing about these schemes, you can look for signs and hopefully limit the success your soon-to-be ex-spouse will have with them.
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.
In divorce and child support cases, one party may attempt to hide income and assets to deprive the spouse or children of their rightful support. It can be difficult to prove hidden earnings or assets, particularly if the other party owns a business, owns assets within corporations or partnerships, or has other financial vehicles that could be used to conceal wealth.
However, there are ways to discover the existence of assets or reasonably estimate the person’s level of earnings. One such way is a lifestyle analysis, which calculates the earnings necessary to live the known lifestyle of the target.