Disputes about money are common in divorce proceedings, and they become even more likely if the couple in question is well-off and/ or on bad terms with each other. A spouse with access to substantial assets may not like the idea of having to share it all with their soon-to-be ex-husband or wife, especially if the breakup was bitter and the couple are at loggerheads.
Spouses intent on hiding funds or assets may try and do so in various ways: failing to disclose them, transferring ownership to friends and family members, opening secret bank accounts or trusts, cooking the company books. The many offshore banking facilities available are an especially popular choice among high net worth divorcees.
If a family lawyer representing a divorcing spouse needs assistance tracking down money or valuing an asset, they will often consult an accountant. But in many cases, for example where valuations are required and in order to save both time and costs, the choice of accountant will have to be agreed with the solicitor for the other spouse, and their instructions will be from both sets of lawyers. But because the accountant has been jointly instructed, neither side will be able to discuss their financial issues in any detail or direct the accountant to do more than is agreed with the other side .
Stowe Family Law is one of the only family law firms to have an in-house ‘forensic’ accountancy department ready to assist clients. Our specialist work includes examining financial records and producing evidence for courtroom disputes. As we work in house however, we are working for one side only and so are at the full disposal of clients, who can discuss the full financial details of their case with us, either by phone or in person. We always endeavour to explain the complexities in an accessible way, especially since we often find ourselves working for spouses who have had no involvement with the family finances at all and then find themselves struggling to catch up when divorce suddenly looms.
Our daily work is quite varied, from routine business valuations and tax work all the way through to international investigations in search of foreign share options or hidden assets. We also regularly help clients with the financial disclosure required for divorce proceedings, and can assess whether their estranged partner’s disclosure documents are likely to be complete or not. We may be asked to look at illiquid assets (i.e. those not easily converted into cash), the tax implications of a financial transaction, or the preparation of a report on some aspect of the case.
It all depends on the client’s needs and their precise circumstances. All the work we do is fully customised and personal: we never take a one-size-fits-all approach. Every family is different.
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