Divorce – even the “friendly divorce” – is a stressful, emotional, and difficult process. During the course of a marriage, spouses’ assumed roles in marriage and money management usually evolve so that one spouse handles the money. Thus, the managing spouse has tremendous leverage because of his or her knowledge of and access to property and information in a divorce. All too frequently the managing spouse cannot resist taking advantage of his or her position to obtain a better financial settlement. When this is done by intimidation, concealment, deceit, or breach of spousal duties, it may be characterized as fraud. That’s where the Forensic CPA applies his or her skills and experience to discover, disclose, and assist the attorney in the recovery of property or rights obtained improperly or by fraud.
All matrimonial actions start with a common goal: identify the total “marital estate.”
Brown Forensic Accounting can be retained to help attorneys and their clients carefully analyze various financial documents in connection with a matrimonial matter. In many instances our involvement can begin right at the start of the discovery process. These services commonly include:
- Analyzing personal and business tax returns
- Reviewing bank statements and brokerage accounts
- Assisting in client interviews and depositions
- Tracing assets to determine or refute separate property claims
- Searching for assets that may have been diverted or dissipated in anticipation of divorce
Locating, organizing, and interpreting financial documents in the early stages of a divorce proceeding is a daunting task, but one that must be considered. Today, the Court is much more sophisticated and equipped to understand how the investigation of a couple’s lifestyle relates to their support determination. Even a slight miscalculation can influence the Court’s judgment.
With so much riding on the correct presentation of the couple’s lifestyle, a formal Lifestyle Analysis is crucial. Keep in mind, however, that with the individuality of each case, a “one-size-fits-all” approach is not the best solution. An expertly prepared Lifestyle Analysis provides substantial benefits to counsel, clients and the Court. Clients grasp the truth of their prior, present, and future economic situations-allowing them to better furnish themselves with the tools necessary to understand their financial position.
Today the Lifestyle Analysis is required not only by the “non-money” spouse seeking Pendent Lite relief, but often by each party. Half of these engagements are now performed on behalf of the primary “income earner,” looking to prevent his/her spouse from receiving an unreasonable temporary support order. The Court has welcomed this exercise as one that has influenced both Pendent Lite support orders and final financial divorce judgment.
The Lifestyle Analysis generally includes, but is not limited to:
- Analyzing personal and business income tax returns
- Analyzing bank statements, brokerage statements, and credit card statements
- Investigating the nature and frequency of significant spending
- Identifying non-recurring and seasonal expenses
- Reviewing of credit reports
In many instances, this exercise has been able to identify spending patterns that were previously unknown or can uncover gambling; the accumulation of art, memorabilia and collectibles; the dissipation of marital assets; and even the existence of extramarital relationships. Once the necessary records are analyzed, calculations regarding the monthly and annual average spending can be determined. The detail and strength of the Lifestyle Analysis leads to credible arguments that can be made to demonstrate a true and accurate analysis of a couple’s lifestyle; and attorneys gain strategic advantages in fighting for the monetary settlement their client deserves.
Key Issues in Lifestyle Analysis
- Summarize data from obvious & discrete sources.
- Identify the ordinary & necessary living expenses of the parties.
- Prepare a report & demonstratives that express a clear presentation.
Forensic investigations are often needed to determine other financial issues when a couple divorces. These commonly include:
- Determining income available for spousal maintenance and child support
- Computing reasonable needs or living expenses
- Assist in the preparation of the Financial Decleration
- Valuation of business interests
- Enhanced earnings capacity calculations of degrees and licenses
The Special Needs Child and Divorce – Approximately half of all marriages end in divorce. Families with special needs children have a much higher divorce rate and much greater needs than those of families with typical children. As the mother of a special needs child born in 1997, Susan Brown is uniquely qualified to assist attorneys and clients in addressing, quantifying and communicating to the courts why support guidelines may not address or meet all of the needs of the special needs child or the parental caregiver.