Divorce, boiled down to its most basic elements, is about dividing marital assets and debts. In some cases, the process is relatively simple: house, cars, bank accounts, credit card bills. Furniture and other belongings might go to one spouse or the other without much contention, based on who owned it before the marriage, or who cares more about owning it afterward.

However, for couples with complex financial portfolios, the process is much more complex. Even in the rare amicable divorce, some assets can be difficult to divide. In addition to the basics, there might be stock options and restricted stock – some vested, some not –deferred compensation, closely held businesses or professional practices, complicated partnerships,  retirement and insurance plans, assets held in trusts of various types and terms, multiple accounts and properties in different states, or even different countries, to be divided and tangible items of exceptional value such as art, antiques or rare collectibles, each in need of current appraisals.

With all that –and quite possibly more –in the mix, nuances in the wording of a complicated settlement agreement can have major financial implications down the road. That’s not something you can leave to chance . . . and with all due respect to the vast expertise of matrimonial law attorneys, the long-term financial and tax impact of various divorce settlement options is not something you should expect your divorce lawyer to calculate or project. You need an experienced divorce financial professional on your divorce team to work through all the financial angles of various settlement scenarios.

In fact, there are situations in which even your financial specialist will need a financial subspecialist. If fraud is a possibility, or if valuable assets such as stock options need to be precisely and defensibly assessed, the specific expertise of a forensic accountant and/or other specialists can be invaluable to your case.

As attorney Miles Mason of Miles Mason Family Law Group in Memphis explained to me, a forensic accountant can be particularly helpful if your case goes to court.

“If a divorcing client must go to court over complex assets, income determination or some other financial issue, a forensic accountant can often testify on behalf of the party about particular financial issues,” Miles said. “Most divorcing clients like the idea of the accounting professional being cross-examined by opposing counsel instead of the client.”

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