When Financial Discovery Gets Complicated

hats_153049007Many family law attorneys are used to doing it all and wearing many different hats. But financial discovery can get complicated enough to warrant bringing in a specialist. When it comes to characterizing, valuing, and dividing assets and debts or to determining a party’s income available for support, things can get very tricky. Consider hiring a specialist to help with complicated financial discovery in a family law matter.

Here are some issues that may call for a particular specialist:

  • Self-employed spouse. A forensic accountant may be needed to determine the person’s income available for support.
  • Unemployed or underemployed spouse. A vocational examiner may be required to assess the person’s earning capacity for purposes of support.
  • Multiple bank or credit card accounts at separation. A forensic accountant may have to analyze all of the accounts to trace separate or community property assets or debts and determine whether a party should be reimbursed for payment of a community debt with separate funds after separation.
  • Pensions and retirement plans. An actuary may be needed to value community and separate interests in a pension plan. A pension lawyer may be needed to draft a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) or other appropriate order to divide the retirement benefits.
  • Stock options. An accountant may be needed to determine the community interest in the options and to value or divide those options and assess tax consequences.
  • Business interests. If a spouse owns an interest in a business, a forensic accountant may have to value the business.
  • Tax issues. Tax advice may be required before a business interest is divided or if there is a question on the taxability or deductibility of support or whether taxable gain will be recognized because of the proposed division.

Of course, even when one or more of these issues is adding to the complexity of your case, the decision to bring in an expert must also be based on whether there are actually funds available to pay for such help.

For everything you need to know about conducting family law financial discovery yourself or with expert assistance, turn to CEB’s practice guide Family Law Financial Discovery, which includes many sample forms to get you started. Also check out CEB’s program Financial Discovery in Family Law Cases, available On Demand.

Related CEB blog posts:

© The Regents of the University of California, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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