Forensic Accounting and Divorce Proceedings

In Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

Even in the most amicable of separations, dividing property when a marriage ends can be a complex and intense process. In North Carolina, family courts are tasked with making an equitable distribution of marital property between spouses when a marriage dissolves. This involves classifying property as marital or separate property, determining the market value of the marital property, then dividing the marital property in accordance with numerous factors relating to each spouse’s situation, their contributions to the marriage, and fairness.

For couples with a large amount of marital property, including real estate, investments, retirement accounts, deferred compensation, stock options, and/or business interests, identifying and determining the value of such property is no small task. Further, the stakes are very high as the property represents both spouses’ hard work and their financial security for the future.

Family Lawyers May Rely on Forensic Accounting

Rather than risk an inaccurate and unfair division of property, it is always wise to consult with a family lawyer before signing anything or finalizing any sort of agreement. For complex marital estates, family lawyers frequently utilize the expertise of forensic accountants, who can help you resolve your equitable distribution issues in the following ways:

  • Finding assets. Whether or not it is intentional, it is possible that a spouse has “hidden” assets that they have not reported to the other spouse or to a court. A forensic accountant can help uncover these previously unknown income or assets, and to help classify this property as marital or separate.
  • Following money trails. It is not uncommon for property to get moved around by spouses leading up to a divorce. A forensic accountant can help follow the trails of what property was moved, the value of the property, whether it was marital property, and where it went. This is important information, as the court may need to enter orders to recover the property, or the other spouse will need to be compensated for the loss of the property when the court makes its distribution.
  • Property that is difficult to appraise. Real estate, art, jointly owned property, business interests, private companies, deferred compensation, stock options, and property with fluctuating values can all be incredibly difficult to value. A forensic accountant can help provide accurate values in accordance with the marketplace and accepted accounting methods. In addition, forensic accountants can keep tabs on fluctuations in value, dividends, and other income that arises between the date of separation and the finalization of the divorce.
  • Tax implications. There may be tremendous tax ramifications to the timing and nature of how property is divided or sold. A forensic accountant can help advise your attorney on how to maximize your tax advantages when dividing property.

New Direction Family Law

If you are seeking a divorce and have complex marital property, you must speak to an attorney. The classification and appraisal of property is highly complex and fraught with peril if you try to resolve it on your own. This is especially true if your spouse already has an attorney—who has absolutely no duty to help you. At New Direction Family Law, our attorneys are intelligent, professional, and thorough. We will fight for your legal interests and make sure your voice is heard. If you need help, contact New Direction Family Law at (919) 719-3470 to schedule a consultation or visit our website.