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Should you add a forensic accountant to your legal team?

As half of a high net worth New Hampshire couple, you may suspect that your spouse is attempting to hide assets from you so as to put himself or herself at an advantage when it comes time to craft the property settlement agreement during your upcoming divorce. Obviously whatever marital assets (s)he successfully hides cannot become part of the fair and equitable division of property required by New Hampshire law.

Given the extraordinary number of ways in which asset-hiding spouses can use today's advanced technologies to secrete portions of the marital property to which their spouses also have rights, finding and tracing these assets can become a highly complex task and one for which few people have the requisite skills. Your best strategy therefore may be to consider adding a forensic accountant to your legal team.

Your forensic accountant search

While you may think that a CPA can find hidden marital assets, such is not always the case. While some CPAs are forensic accountants as well, most are not. A true forensic accountant has the advanced education, training and experience to not only search out hidden assets, but also to do sophisticated things with them once found. Consequently, you should look for an expert with the following abilities:

  • To search for, find and track whatever assets your spouse may have hidden
  • To determine, track and analyze your spouse's cash flow
  • To discover and analyze any inconsistencies between and among your spouse's possibly highly complex financial documents
  • To establish the value of your spouse's business and real estate interests
  • To determine the extent and value of your marital property as well as each spouse's nonmarital property
  • To understand and be able to calculate the tax implications of various property divisions that you and your spouse may wish to consider

Expert witness

Keep in mind that your forensic accountant likely will be your expert financial witness when you go to court to obtain your divorce. As such, (s)he not only must possess excellent communication skills, but also have the ability to clearly and concisely explain to the judge what may be very complicated financial concepts and calculations. In other words, the outcome of your divorce case may rest on your forensic accountant's abilities.

Be prepared to pay your forensic accountant a reasonably large fee for his or her professional services. Remember, however, that it takes a high degree of education, knowledge and skill to competently perform the work that (s)he will be doing on your behalf. Therefore, the fee you pay actually represents an investment in the financial security of your post-divorce life.

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