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The Role of Forensic Accountants in High Asset Divorces

By Michael DiFalco

The services of a forensic accountant aren’t always needed to settle a divorce, but couples with a large net worth or complex assets will benefit from working with a forensic accountant. Your divorce attorney will recommend working with a forensic accountant if they believe one is needed for the fair assessment and disbursement of assets.  

What is a forensic accountant?

You may not have had reason to hire a forensic accountant before and may not be clear on the role they can play in a divorce. Forensic accountants specialize in researching complex financial matters. They are experienced in traditional accounting matters, but forensic accountants are also experts at investigating hidden assets and other financial issues that can complicate the divorce process. 

The role of forensic accounting is to analyze the financial statements of both parties. The accountant starts by reviewing the affidavits and other required financial documents to search for any discrepancies. 

A Forensic Accountant’s Role in Divorce

When one or both parties in a divorce have an unusually high number of assets or an otherwise complicated financial portfolio, a forensic accountant may be called in to investigate for discrepancies or serve as an expert witness as to the valuation of assets. Some of the services offered by a forensic accountant include:

  • Appraising complicated assets such as stocks, property, and businesses
  • Locating hidden assets
  • Identifying separate and community assets
  • Determining a spouse’s ability to pay child support and spousal support

Forensic accountants are best utilized during high-asset divorces. These types of divorces present complexities that can require the help of independent financial experts who do not represent either spouse or have a stake in the financial outcome of a divorce. 

Documents Reviewed by a Forensic Accountant

When a forensic accountant is called in to assist with a divorce proceeding, they will need access to many types of personal and business documents. Any documentation that reveals financial information about one or both spouses may be examined, including:

  • Financial statements
  • Canceled checks
  • Tax returns
  • Business contracts
  • Sales invoices
  • Bank statements
  • Mortgage applications
  • Financial projections

All of these documents and more can assist a forensic accountant in the discovery of valuable information. For example, an electricity bill paid for an unfamiliar address could reveal that one spouse has property the other spouse did not know about. 

Forensic accountants are experts at discovering malicious intent, but that’s not their only role. They can also find assets that have been forgotten and those for which there are no current records. 

Who needs a forensic accountant?

A forensic accountant does not take the place of a skilled divorce attorney but works independently to help ensure fair and transparent financial disclosures. Spouses who suspect their partner of hiding assets or believe their spouse has an unfair advantage when it comes to financial disbursement can benefit from hiring a forensic accountant. 

Spouses who have maintained traditional roles, with one spouse taking care of money management, may also benefit from including a forensic accountant on their legal team. The cost of hiring a forensic accountant can easily be defrayed by the assets an accountant could uncover. Any asset that is not disclosed before the finalization of a divorce would be sold, spent, or destroyed by the spouse in possession. 

Protect Yourself and Your Family

If you’re unsure whether you need the services of a forensic accountant, get help from the family law attorneys at Aiello & DiFalco LLP in Garden City, NY. An experienced divorce attorney can determine whether a forensic accountant could benefit your divorce proceedings and help ensure a fair division of all assets.

About the Author
I am a partner at Aiello & DiFalco LLP, and my priority for my clients is to guide them through an arduous court case to provide them with the opportunity to write the next chapter in their life. I tailor my approach to each client’s priorities and positions, and to the extent that matters can be predicted, I will always provide a realistic perspective of how the law could be applied to the particular facts and circumstances of a case. Since I thrive on helping people and solving problems, I bring an optimistic and positive approach to practicing in a very difficult area of law. With more than a decade of experience handling hundreds of cases, I have the ability to get results on the issues my clients view as priorities. When cases or certain issues cannot be settled, I have a solid record of success at trials, hearings, and on appeals. Feel free to contact me for a free initial consultation, I am always available to help.