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.
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
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.
We’ve all seen it before: A spouse owns and operates one or more businesses. Divorce is filed, and the “out” spouse is told that the businesses have little or no value. Further, there is no income available to pay support, thanks to the poor financial condition of the businesses.
How can this be when the married couple has lived a good life for years, always having more than enough money to pay for homes, living expenses, and vacations? It’s the case of the disappearing income and asset values, brought on by the divorce.
Fortunately, there are ways to ferret out truth behind the financial picture that is being presented. It likely will not be easy. The “in” spouse controls the money, the information, and the documents. Getting him to turn over financial documents that will prove there is income and value will be difficult.Continue reading
When parties are divorcing, it is not unusual for claims to be made about declining income or lack of assets. Tracy talks about some of the documents that could be used to refute these claims and to prove the existence of assets or streams of income.
Divorcing spouses who own one or more businesses need a detailed financial analysis in order to properly evaluate these interests. A Business Lifestyle Analysis may be performed to determine the true income of the company and find out where the money is really going. Tracy Coenen talks about how she analyzes the detailed accounting records of a business.
Closely-held businesses often create problems in divorces, as they need to be valued for the property division and the income needs to be evaluated for support purposes. It can be difficult to examine the income of a business that transacts with its customers primarily in cash. However, there are ways to verify whether the income being reported is reasonable.
Some of the ways that the income of cash businesses can be examined and verified include:
1. Find out the normal mark-up or profitability of the product or service being sold, and see how recently reported figures of the company compare.Continue reading