Chapter 1 – Purpose of the Lifestyle Analysis

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Accounting is a topic that can frighten otherwise brave professionals. All the asset, liability, income, and expense talk can be overwhelming if the listener is not trained in the field of accounting. The best forensic accountants are able to present financial issues in litigation so that they can be understood readily. Attorneys, judges, and juries often lack an accounting or finance background, so being able to break down financial topics in a way that is easy to understand is essential for forensic accountants.

Family law cases involving complex financial matters often require the  assistance of a financial expert for the following issues:

  • Preparing a financial disclosure, including creating a marital balance sheet
  • Comparing balance sheets from period to period to evaluate changes in assets and liabilities
  • Analyzing financial disclosures or affidavits prepared by the spouses
  • Calculating the historical income of the spouses
  • Determining income (or the ability to pay) in order to calculate support
  • Determining the standard of living (or the need for support)
  • Valuing business entities or other assets (such as real estate, pensions, and the like)
  • Identifying assets and determining whether they are nonmarital (separate) or subject to division (marital or community)
  • Tracing and finding funds or other assets
  • Analyzing claims of dissipation, wasteful spending, or fraudulent conveyance
  • Evaluating the income tax impact of various scenarios
  • Assessing the work of an opposing financial expert
  • Providing other litigation assistance, such as assisting with drafting discovery demands and interrogatories or preparing for the depositions of individuals with financial information

The Lifestyle Analysis
This book focuses solely on the lifestyle analysis in the family law case, although other services from a financial professional may also be needed in a case. The lifestyle analysis is the process of tabulating and analyzing the income and expenses of the parties. The lifestyle analysis is then used to determine the standard of living of the parties, which will influence support calculations, and possibly property division.

Calculating the lifestyle of the spouses prior to separation can provide insight into the lifestyle the married couple enjoyed and the cost of that lifestyle, as well as the income that was or is required to fund the lifestyle of the married couple. The results may be used to prove a spouse’s financial needs following divorce. In other words, a detailed analysis of the spending during the marriage can be the basis to calculate the funding the spouse needs to maintain a similar lifestyle after divorce.

The lifestyle analysis may also help confirm or refute income claims made by a spouse. If a spouse has declared income that is well below the cost of the lifestyle he or she is leading, the lifestyle analysis may suggest that undisclosed sources of income exist. It may also help identify previously undisclosed assets, which may have a substantial impact on the property division.

The lifestyle analysis is typically used to sort out the numbers post-separation, but it may also be used to evaluate the finances of each party at the time of a prenuptial agreement. If a party did not make a full and accurate disclosure prior to the signing of the premarital agreement, the spouse may attempt to have the agreement set aside. A prenuptial agreement can also be instrumental in the forensic accountant’s work post-separation, as it provides a point at which to start tracing funds or assets.

Also included in this chapter:

Choosing a Financial Professional
Professional Standards
Conflicts of Interest
Consulting Versus Testifying
Reasons for Hiring an Expert
Accountants and Attorneys Working Together
Determining Support
Separate Property
Hidden Income
Hidden Assets