This faq was published
in Divorce Magazine and are reproduced here with their full permission.
"I'm not certain my
lawyer has a good handle on the financial aspects of my divorce. My spouse owns a business
and has property; I'm not convinced I'm getting my fair share. What should I do?"
Since your spouse owns a business and has property, it is
critical to employ a forensic accountant (CPA) who has extensive family law experience for
the business, as well as a certified real estate appraiser since there is real property
involved. Your attorney should be able to recommend qualified experts. If you and your
spouse each hire your own experts, there will be great expense and time used up.
Even if your attorney has dealt with
business valuations before, and you are concerned about spending money, you need to have
an expert in the field to analyze your marital portion of the business including good
will. He/she must determine a cash flow analysis to help you find out your spouse's true
monthly income in case child and/or spousal support are at issue. When a person owns
his/her own business, there are many perks (car payments, country club membership, meals,
etc.) which needed to be added to the actual salary taken.
In order to minimize the costs and
stress of using experts in a divorce, you would save marital assets and decrease the
conflict if you and your spouse used neutral experts in mediation, or if your attorneys
can help both spouses to agree to use one neutral expert for each valuation (one certified
appraiser or forensic accountant). You will need to make it clear to the agreed-upon
evaluator that he/she is not representing either side, but is to meet with both of you at
once, hear your issues and concerns, and make a fair analysis based on objective standards
which are approved by the court in your jurisdiction. Both of you should feel comfortable
with your expert. If one or the other party pays for the expert's services, it should be
clear in writing to all experts that the report is to give a non-biased evaluation.
You are always advised to get
independent advice with the accountant of your choice to review any report. You and your
spouse should agree ahead of time that any report will serve as an advisory opinon. This
gives you a little leeway to negotiate, and if you fail to agree, it provides a strong
leverage for the court to make a determination. Using a neutral professional could save
you thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of stress and court time.