We have in-house forensic accountants here at Stowe Family Law. Their valuable work means that when clients come to see us for the first time, we can provide immediate advice about the likely scale and nature of a case. Our forensic accountants can also provide advice about the likely value of a client’s business for the purpose of a divorce. This is useful because business values may be artificially inflated or deflated by the client, for a variety of reasons.
It is relatively unusual for a family law firm to have in-house forensic accountants, and our clients prize this service. In general, the demand for it appears to be increasing.
Financial Times journalist Jane Croft recently interviewed Nick White, the head of our forensic accountancy department, about high profile divorce cases and tracking down hidden assets. Extracts from the published feature appear below.
A model for breaking up
By Jane Croft
With so much at stake in big-money divorce cases, it is perhaps not surprising that there is often suspicion that some husbands are “hiding” their wealth so it cannot be included in any divorce settlement.
In these situations, divorce lawyers are turning to a small circle of specialist forensic accountants who can value a couple’s wealth and investigate allegations of non-disclosure. This can include tracing assets through a web of offshore locations to work out whether someone is underplaying their own net worth to win a cheaper settlement.
Nick White, a specialist in forensic accountancy and a partner at Stowe Family Law, dealt with the case of a woman considering a divorce who suspected her husband had one or two bank accounts that she did not know about.
The wife was friendly with her husband’s secretary, who tipped her off about various bank accounts he had in the Channel Islands and about a trust he had set up in Bermuda without her knowledge. The husband had declared his assets were worth £100,000, but the firm established he had assets worth millions.
Mr White says: “The situation we have, really, is the wife is kept in the dark and does not know about the husband’s day-to-day business and is happy to live the lifestyle and no questions are asked about where the money comes from. You can evaluate and appraise this disclosure. The husband is often very secretive and so you start to dig and find things are not what they seem and don’t stack up. It all builds from that point.”
You can read the full article on the FT’s website (registration required).