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How Forensic Accountants Can Help With Uncontested Divorce

Posted By Attorney Jim Cairns || 4-Feb-2013

An uncontested Pennsylvania divorce can bring out the worst in people. It doesn't matter if you live in Pittsburgh or Harrisburg, there are a lot of emotions running on high, including anger and paranoia. As a result, a spouse may feel threatened or scared and start to hide assets from his or her partner, even during a no-fault divorce.

If your spouse has handled the marital finances, you may be at a disadvantage when it comes to working out your marital settlement agreement. It is of the utmost importance that you quickly learn about your financial situation, since this is going to impact your economic future.

Some individuals will hire a certified forensic accountant if they believe their spouse is hiding marital assets, transferred them or is deferring them (i.e., postponing a bonus at work). Suspicion is often raised when the numbers just don't match. A forensic accountant will go beyond the obvious and investigate the who, what, where and why of your spouse's finances. Basically they investigate what is going on behind the numbers.

A forensic accountant closely scrutinizes all documentation to determine their accuracy, find inconstancies, and verify assets and income. In addition, a forensic accountant can give you information about possible tax implications of a marital settlement agreement. Though there are various methods for uncovering hidden assets, there are limitations and a forensic accountant should discuss this with you before you begin.

When selecting a forensic accountant for your divorce, look at:

  1. Years of experience;
  2. Client reviews and references;
  3. Your budget;
  4. Duration of the investigation;
  5. His/her plan of action. If he or she can't clearly tell you what the plan is, then you should consider finding someone else;
  6. Communication skills. Quality of information given to you. Receptiveness to your questions;
  7. Level of honesty and integrity, and forthcoming with shortcomings;
  8. Auditing experience;
  9. Certifications of the auditor, if any; and
  10. Professional affiliations, and the requirements to be part of any particular organization.

Once a forensic accountant is being considered here are some key items to cover:

  1. Confidentiality form;
  2. Price;
  3. Duration of investigation; and
  4. Make sure the forensic accountant is an objective party. You don't want your spouse's best friend looking into possible hidden assets.

Here is a list of some of the materials a forensic accountant may request:

  1. All banks and financial institutions your spouse has had interaction with, including the type of account and account numbers;
  2. Education and employment history of your spouse;
  3. Detailed information on business and personal relationships, such as business partners and ex-spouses;
  4. All forms of income (this includes passive income), such as loans, estates and settlements;
  5. Premarital agreement (if you have one), this is another area to look into what was listed and what was potentially hidden; and
  6. Your marital lifestyle. What do you spend money on i.e., travel, taxes, child care and entertainment?

We advise that you do not immediately hire to the first forensic accountant you come across. Do your homework, compare and interview the person you are going to hire as your forensic accountant. Like in all professional fields there are a variety of levels of expertise. Get the forensic accountant that you think will do the best job for you in obtaining a fair marital settlement agreement during your uncontested Pennsylvania divorce.