Why Women Are Often at a Disadvantage in Divorce

Standard

divorce financial analysisIn many divorces, women are at a significant disadvantage, especially when it comes to money. In many marriages, the husband has been the main breadwinner. He often controls the purse strings, and often knows much more about where money has been spent and what assets are owned.

In contrast, the wife has often had lower earnings, and has had little to no control over the money. She may have been free to spend money as she saw fit, but she did not see the bills, pay the bills, or maintain control over bank and brokerage accounts. At divorce time, she has no idea where the money is, where is may have (improperly) gone, and may have no access to it. Continue reading

Divorce Financials: Importance of a Lifestyle Analysis

Standard

In the early stages of divorce, clients are required to complete financial affidavits, financial declarations, or other similarly titled disclosures.  The importance of an accurate disclosure of assets, liabilities, and income is obvious. Yet many clients are unable to accurately prepare this financial information.

Particularly in high net worth divorces, it may be difficult for the husband or wife to report these financial details because of a large volume of data and/or an inability to compute the numbers. The financial declaration will be a primary piece of information used to divide assets, calculate alimony, and calculate child support. Errors can therefore be very costly.

A lifestyle analysis completed by a forensic accountant can solve this problem, and can add other value to the divorce process. The lifestyle analysis is typically done to demonstrate the spending (or the lifestyle) of the family prior to the separation. Continue reading

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

Standard

LifestyleAnalysisInDivorceCasesSmallMy new book, Lifestyle Analysis in Divorce Cases: Investigating Spending and Finding Hidden Income and Assets, is being published by the American Bar Association this summer. It will be the only book available on the topic of lifestyle analysis in divorce cases. While there are plenty of excellent books on financial issues in divorce, none of them focuses on the lifestyle analysis, how it is done, and how the results may be used in court.

This book focuses solely on the lifestyle analysis in the family law case, although other services from a financial professional may also be needed in a case. 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 possibly property division. Continue reading

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

Standard

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. Continue reading

Tax Fraud and Family Law

Standard

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. Continue reading

Book Review: The Forensic Accounting Deskbook

Standard

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. Continue reading

Finding Bank Accounts and Financial Records

Standard

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. Continue reading

Are Divorce Lawyers Necessary?

Standard

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. Continue reading

Discovery of Financial Documents in Family Law Cases

Standard

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. Continue reading

Divorce Financials: Lifestyle Analysis in Family Law Cases

Standard

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. Continue reading