If your attorney has mentioned using a forensic accountant, or if your spouse is using one, you’re probably wondering if it’s as serious as it sounds. For cases that involve a lot of assets, or a business, or if one person believes that the other person is hiding money, it might be a good idea to work with this specialized type of accountant.
In a divorce, the court’s job is to make sure property is divided fairly. A common sticking point is which property is subject to division and which property is to remain separate. Illinois law says that only “marital property” gets divided upon divorce. Marital property is what the spouses have acquired during the marriage, and it includes money that one spouse has acquired in their own career. If one spouse starts a business during the marriage, it’s considered joint property. The same is true of retirement plans.
Sometimes, one spouse is hiding property that should be split. Other times, all the property is known and on the table, yet it’s difficult to place a value on that property. For example, if a business is owned, it’s not likely that the court will literally split it in two. Instead, it must be valued so that one spouse can buy the other out. A forensic accountant can be useful in a situation like this.
Forensic accountants can be used in an Illinois child support calculation, as well. The amount of child support owed is based on the paying spouse’s income. This can be complicated if your spouse does not earn a typical type of salary, or if you think they’re hiding something.
Forensic accountants charge a fee that is separate from your attorney fees, so it’s generally only worth it if there are a lot of assets. Your family law attorney can help you decide if it’s necessary. It helps to have an attorney who has handled similar cases in the past, and one who works with and has relationships with experienced forensic accountants.
It’s difficult, and sometimes impossible, to go back and change a child support order. And property division is usually considered final in Illinois, meaning you can’t go back and alter your agreement or the court’s judgment. So it’s important to do it right the first time.
Written by Michael Helfand