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Do I need a forensic accountant for my divorce?

Do you need an attorney to file for divorce in North Carolina? No, you are not legally required to have a lawyer. Should you have an attorney? Yes, you could make mistakes that hurt you now and in the future. Do you need an expert to get involved? That depends.

In the world of divorce, the term “expert” refers to a third-party individual who can bring specialized knowledge to. These could include a tax professional, financial planner or medical professional. Forbes recently published an article discussing the increased use of a particular kind of expert: forensic accountants.

What is a forensic accountant? A forensic accountant wears many hats. They are investigators, auditors and accountants all rolled into one. They search financial documents and records to determine the true extent of the marital estate.

When do you need one? It is easy to assume two things: 1) only couples with a high net worth need one and 2) only spouses who suspect the other is hiding assets need one. Under these circumstances, you may need to bring in a forensic accountant. They are real situations, but they are not the only circumstances.

Some spouses intentionally hide assets by transferring property into a friend’s name, structuring a business to hide income or gifting large sums of money to family members. In other cases, forensic accountants step into situations in which the spouses only dispute the true value of a complex asset.

Common examples include businesses, assets held in trust, partnerships, real property located in another state, retirement accounts, investment portfolios, inheritance, deferred compensation plans, life insurance and art or other collections, among many other things.

It is important to note that “high net worth” is not a determinant either. A spouse may own a business that is complex enough to require the assistance of a forensic accountant but have a small marital estate.

One last question: Does the attorney you hire make a difference? Absolutely. If you have complex or valuable assets, you should consult an attorney with extensive experience handling high-asset divorce. When it comes to experts, there is a big difference between knowing one is necessary and knowing when one is necessary.

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