A forensic accountant sounds like a character in one of the CSI series to most people. However, they are increasingly used by couples with considerable assets who divorce. These accountants can help determine exactly what assets a spouse has — both personal and business.
A forensic accountant can determine exactly what investments, collectibles, retirement plans and business assets a person has so that his or her spouse is able to seek a fair share of those assets when they divorce. Often a family law attorney will recommend that a forensic accountant be brought in to determine exactly what a spouse’s assets are.
This can be particularly tricky to determine if a spouse has privately-held businesses. People have been known to hide assets through shell corporations and other methods in order to try to prevent a spouse from discovering those assets.
As one accounting professor notes, “Being able to determine a spouse’s true income can be problematic. It can be very easy for a spouse to claim a contrived lower income.”
Obviously, a forensic accountant is not necessary for every divorce or even for the majority of them. However, if yours is a high-asset divorce and/or your spouse has one or more businesses, you should consult with your family law attorney to determine what kind of professionals you should bring into the divorce process. These professionals can help ensure that you have an accurate picture of just what assets your spouse has and therefore, know exactly what you have a right to ask for as the two of you divide your assets.
Source: Forbes, “When The Wealthy Divorce, They Regularly Engage Forensic Accountants,” Russ Alan Prince, Sep. 22, 2015