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How does a forensic accountant help during divorce?

Detectives on television shows like “CSI” and “Bones” use a Hollywood version of forensic science to solve crimes, and this is likely the version most people are aware of -- examining a murder victim’s body and collecting DNA from the crime scene to help determine who the killer is.

The fact is, forensics can be used in more ways than in police work. In the world of divorce law, forensic accountants can help a spouse make sure the marital property gets divided up equally, by figuring out exactly what is in the “marital property” pile and what that property is worth.

Another reason to hire a forensic accountant is to sniff out fraudulent behavior by other spouse. For example, a privately owned business may be a marital asset, but some business owners will use shell corporations to hide some of the business’ assets from their spouses during divorce, according to Forbes.

A forensic accountant can determine a client’s spouse’s true income. They do this by examining the other spouse’s tax returns, bank balances and investment portfolios. They also determine the current value of important assets like retirement plans and life insurance policies. Once the true value of these assets is clear, the parties can negotiate a fair settlement.

The larger the pile potentially is, the more likely that a forensic accountant is necessary. Obviously, this service is not always necessary. Someone with modest assets probably will not, for example. Whether forensic accounting will be a good investment in your particular case could be a conversation between yourself and your divorce lawyer.

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