If you are half of a high net worth West Virginia couple facing the prospects of a divorce, you may have the nagging suspicion that your spouse is hiding assets from you so as to better position himself or herself in your upcoming property settlement negotiations. Greedy and/or vindictive spouses have been hiding assets for decades. What makes finding these assets so much more difficult and complicated nowadays is the many new ways available to do it.
You likely face a very challenging time, especially if your spouse chooses to hide marital assets electronically. You may wish to discuss with your attorney the possibility of hiring a forensic accountant to take on this highly complex job.
Forensic accountant skills and qualifications
Not all accountants are forensic accountants. Even most CPAs lack the advanced education and training required to make them experts at finding and tracking hidden assets and fully analyzing them once found.
You and your attorney should conduct a thorough search before deciding on which forensic accountant to hire. Check out not only his or her academic education and training, but also his or her background and experience in the following areas:
- Searching for, finding and tracking whatever assets a spouse may have hidden
- Discovering and analyzing the inconsistencies between and among a spouse’s financial documents
- Determining the extent of marital and nonmarital property
- Establishing the value of the various ownership interests a spouse has in businesses, real property, etc.
- Determining, tracking and analyzing a spouse’s cash flow
- Understanding and calculating the tax implications of various property divisions
In addition to experience in all of the above, your forensic accountant should also possess good communication skills. (S)he must be able to act as your expert witness when you go to trial, with the ability to clearly and concisely explain difficult financial concepts and calculations to the judge.
Unfortunately for you, forensic accountants do not come cheaply. Be prepared to pay a substantial fee for his or her services. On the other hand, consider this a necessary investment in your post-divorce future and that of any children you have.