Forensic Accountants And Business Valuations

Does your net worth come from a business you own? Business valuations in the context of divorce proceedings are extremely complex. Whether or not you and your spouse share ownership, it is extremely critical to seek early legal and financial advice to protect your own financial future as well as the future of the business.

The attorneys at Morris, Downing & Sherred offer comprehensive divorce-related legal services, with an emphasis on representing high net worth individuals, especially those who own their own businesses. Our attorneys provide aggressive and knowledgeable legal advice to clients with the goal of creating a divorce agreement that gives each client the strongest chance for a secure financial future. Our clients appreciate the high level of personal service they receive, and the security that comes from knowing their divorce is being structured by knowledgeable lawyers who know how to craft creative and effective divorce agreements.

Valuation Of A Business In The Divorce Process

When a marriage ends, all marital property must be equitably distributed between the husband and wife. Marital property includes any interest in a family-owned business, whether the spouses are joint owners or whether only one spouse has an ownership interest in the business. Questions that must be answered, with assistance from forensic accountants and business valuation experts, include:

  • Did the business start during the course of the marriage?
  • Did the non-owner contribute in any way to the business? Or, did the non-owner spouse contribute to the family and the marriage in a way that allowed the owner-spouse to ultimately succeed in the business?
  • Will the business be sold or will one spouse buy out the other?
  • Who should bear responsibility for any present or future tax liabilities associated with the business?

The Role Of The Forensic Accountant In Divorce

Forensic accountants analyze money. By sifting through complex financial documents, forensic accountants develop an accurate assessment of the relevant financial situation. When forensic accountants become involved in family law disputes, they evaluate when money is coming into the family, where assets are stored, and how assets are being distributed.

The forensic accountant can play an essential role when evaluating assets for equitable distribution. Equitable distribution requires a full understanding of the marital assets. If both spouses have not been actively involved in the management of family finances, one might not be aware of all investments. Alternatively, if one spouse is attempting to conceal assets, it may be nearly impossible for an untrained person to find these assets. A forensic accountant can investigate and review finances to determine whether there are hidden assets and to ensure that equitable distribution accounts for all assets.

When Is A Forensic Accountant Necessary?

Not every contested divorce requires the expertise of a forensic accountant. However, there are some circumstances where the knowledge of a forensic accountant is likely to be particularly valuable. Most commonly, forensic accountants become involved when one or both spouses are self-employed. The accountant can ensure that one person is not using business accounts to hide marital assets. A business owner can manipulate business accounts in numerous ways; a trained forensic accountant can review business transactions and business accounts to ensure that assets are properly classified and disclosed. Additionally, a forensic accountant can assign a value to the business and analyze any distinctions between separate and marital property within the context of a family business.

This is not the only time forensic accountants become involved in divorce proceedings. A forensic accountant may be helpful when there is simply a dispute over the reported income or assets of either party. Sometimes one spouse will report income levels that simply do not align with the spouse's apparent lifestyle or with the shared marital lifestyle. A forensic accountant can investigate to determine whether the spouse has misrepresented his or her income.

Ultimately, the necessity of working with a forensic accountant depends upon the individual circumstances. If you suspect that something just does not add up, it is worthwhile to investigate more fully, relying upon the knowledge and advice of a trained professional.

Contact Us Today

The division of marital property in a divorce can get very complicated. Whether you want to negotiate a fair settlement or protect your rights in court, you want an advocate working for you. Contact us at our Newton offices today or call us at 973-383-2700 to schedule a confidential consultation and receive preliminary information about the specifics of your circumstances and what strategies might be available to ensure protection of your business and financial assets.