By Michael H. Gora
Many times divorce lawyers and their clients have to make a decision as to whether or not to hire a forensic accountant as an expert in processing their case from beginning to the end, whether it comes at a mediation or trial.
In most of my cases there is no question. When annual incomes are in the hundreds of thousands, businesses have to be valued; money and assets must be traced from pre-marriage through a long marriage by forensic accountants.
Accountants from forensic accounting firms do all of the above and much more, such as preparing an accurate financial affidavit to rendering accounting opinions at trial.
There are clearly other cases in which no lawyer would recommend hiring a forensic accountant. If alimony and child support are not at issue, no businesses need valuation, no questions arise as to whether property is marital or non marital and there are no issues of co-mingling assets.
But there are those cases in which hiring a forensic accountant is a borderline question.
These accountants are not inexpensive but are often essential, especially if your opponent has hired a forensic. While lawyers who, with the help of their paralegals, can produce the elementary financial documentation in simple cases, we can only argue the accounting issues and cannot render opinions as the forensic accountants always can.
Once the opposing team hires a forensic accountant, it is very important to balance the odds by hiring one of your own. Judges are far more likely to accept an account’s opinion than a lawyer’s argument on the same issue.
Recently, after being hired to substitute for another lawyer who, without a forensic accountant, could not convince the other side to settle a case in a reasonable way, a forensic accountant was hired at my suggestion.
Within a month and a half the case was settled in a conference where no mediator was hired. The two lawyers and two accountants went into a conference room and before morning’s end, a settlement was being drafted and then signed.
The difference was clear. With one side having no accountant, the other figured that a trial with their account would be like shooting fish in a barrel. Once both sides had knowledgeable accountants the financial issues vanished like an afternoon thunder storm.
Michael H. Gora has been certified by the Board of Specialization and Education of The Florida Bar as a specialist in family and matrimonial law, and is a partner with Shapiro Blasi Wasserman & Gora P.A. in Boca Raton. Mr. Gora may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and at (561) 477-7800.