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Should you add a forensic accountant to your divorce team?

If you and your spouse are a high-asset California couple with a complex financial situation, you may find it difficult to resolve your property settlement issues during your divorce. This is especially true if you suspect that your spouse is hiding assets

You may wish to consider hiring a forensic accountant to work with you and your divorce attorney. His or her unique training and skills can greatly enhance your success in finding, tracking and valuing whatever hidden assets may exist.

Forensic accountant skills

Unlike a regular accountant, a forensic accountant receives special training to enable him or her to deal with complex financial documents in a legal setting. You can expect your forensic account, who may be a CPA, to be able to competently do the following:

  • Search for hidden assets and/or income
  • Find inconsistencies between and among various types of financial documents
  • Perform business evaluations and/or other asset valuations
  • Determine cash flow
  • Trace separate and marital property
  • Understand the tax implications of various property divisions

In addition, (s)he can testify in depositions and in court as your expert witness.

Extensive investigation

Your forensic accountant does not stop with merely analyzing the documents you provide or your spouse provides during the discovery process. If a more thorough investigation is warranted, (s)he can also do the following:

  • Search business records such as contracts, financial statements, profit and loss statements and other documents to find suspicious write-offs, payroll padding, asset transfers, fake debt, underreported income, overpayment of creditors, business perks and any number of other business practices, both ethical and unethical
  • Search employment and tax records to discover sales commissions, deferred compensation, bonuses, accelerated depreciation, gains and/or losses on stock or other sales, etc.
  • Conduct public record searches to find undisclosed property deeds, court judgments, etc.


As highly skilled as a forensic accountant is, do not overlook your role in steering him or her in the right direction. Since you know your spouse’s habits better than anyone, you likely have a better idea of where (s)he might have an undisclosed bank account, safe deposit box, etc. You also know the relatives, friends and/or business associates who might be helping him or her hide assets. All of this is vital information for your forensic accountant’s full investigation.

While a forensic accountant is not a necessary addition to most divorce teams, if your complex high-asset situation calls for the assistance of one, you undoubtedly will find that his or her help and expertise is more than worth the cost.

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