Substantial Asset Divorce in Florida
Valuation of Assets in a Florida Divorce
Valuation refers to the process of estimating the value of some asset. The asset may be a house, a piece of real property, a car, or a piece of artwork (for example). Some may wonder whether proper valuation of assets is important in a divorce. In other words, would it not be easier to estimate the value of assets as opposed to spending time and money ascertaining the precise value? But a proper valuation of assets can affect much more than simply a fair division of the property. Fortunately, there are a number of professionals who can be consulted whenever the value of assets and property is an issue in a divorce.
Real and Personal Property Appraisers in Florida
When there is disagreement as to the value of real or personal property, an appraiser may be asked to step in and provide a value for a piece of property or asset. A real property appraiser is consulted whenever real estate (i.e., a house or tract of land) is involved, while a personal property appraiser is consulted for things such as jewelry, artwork, and antiques.
If one or both spouses own a business, appraisers can be asked to provide a value for the business just as they would for real or personal property. Although the information consulted consists of the business’s records and financial documents, the overall process remains essentially the same.
Forensic Certified Public Accountant
Another tool in the divorce lawyer’s toolbox is the forensic accountant (or, if properly qualified and licensed, the forensic certified public accountant). A forensic accountant is usually consulted when there is a concern that one spouse is attempting to conceal income or assets from the other spouse. This may be a concern, for instance, when one spouse handled all the financial affairs of the couple during the marriage. When the couple divorces, the other spouse is at a disadvantage in that he or she may not know where assets are located, how or when they were acquired, or even what the current balance of the bank accounts of the couple.
There are a number of ways that a spouse may attempt to conceal income or assets:
- A spouse may ask his or her employer to defer paying his or her salary, so it appears that spouse is earning less income than is accurate;
- A spouse who normally receives a bonus may try to have that bonus deposited into a separate account; or
- A spouse may not report benefits he or she receives from his or her employer, such as health insurance, life insurance, a company car, or allowances.
- If one spouse is self-employed or is an owner of a closely-held business, there are additional opportunities for fraud to occur:
- The spouse may make payments from the business to others who do not work for the business, such as family members, children, or friends;
- The spouse may attempt to write off personal expenses as business expenses; or
- The spouse may delay in collecting accounts that are due or in making sales.
The Law Firm of Steven W. Bowden can help uncover fraud or attempts to hide income by examining tax returns, bank records, contracts and other financial documents. The forensic accountant is trained to look for inconsistencies in these documents – for example, inconsistencies between bank records for a business and the income reported to the IRS. These inconsistencies can signal that a spouse may be attempting to conceal assets, prompting further investigation.