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Matrimonial Disputes – The Time For Fraud?

Tracing Assets In Matrimonial Disputes

Providing expert accounting assistance in cases of a failed marriage is a regular task for a forensic accountant. This is especially so for one who specialises in matters of fraud, because much of the work can involve tracing assets that have been hidden from one party to avoid being included in any settlement. It is essential that such matters are treated with great care in case they develop from civil matters into criminal affairs.

Is hiding assets in a matrimonial dispute fraud?

It is best to illustrate this with an example of a recent client who had approached us with her concerns that her estranged husband wanted her to buy his share in the family home for a sum of money that would apparently have given her no excess funds with which to use for living, including looking after her children.  She was at a loss to understand why her share of the family assets were needed to pay off a mortgage leaving her with nothing else.

A little bit of digging revealed that her husband had set up home with his girlfriend and a new baby. Further investigations showed that the new home had been purchased by the younger girlfriend without a mortgage, who had no means since she had just given up her supermarket job after becoming pregnant.

It was clearly worth carrying out a full appraisal of the client’s family circumstances in the year or so leading up to the split, and sure enough the husband had been liquidating assets and transferring funds that were eventually used to buy his new house.  Sufficient to say a much fairer deal was obtained for the client.

In this case, the husband had been committing fraud. He had been taking value from his family portfolio, which had been built up over many years with the help and support of his wife. In my view, he was lucky to get away with having the Court order him to provide a better settlement than he had proposed, and not be indicted on criminal charges.

A husband is jealous of his wife’s success but ignores his children!

Not all suspicions held by one spouse regarding the wealth of the other are founded. I recall one appointment as joint expert that was originally driven by an estranged husband who believed that his wife’s business should have afforded him a better settlement.

On further investigation, I was able to value the children’s day care and nursery business, and assess the books and records against the reported income and profits. This was a very modest business, providing the wife with an income to look after her two infant children, one of whom was severely disabled. Not only did the business provide the level of income as had been reported, it also provided a means by which the wife could work while looking after her poorly child!

I take a pride in my independent status as a forensic accountant and expert witness, more so as a court appointed joint expert in this case. However, this was one job where I was happy on behalf of the wife that the full facts were presented to the Court and a reasonable and balanced settlement made. The husband had been jealous of his wife’s business, having difficulties with his own career.

Is it fraud preventing full disclosure of all the facts?

A very prominent “celeb” was seeking a divorce settlement from one of a string of husbands. My instructions from the current husband’s solicitors were to determine how much his wife was worth. He wanted a bigger slice of her estate, she naturally did not want to lose part of the wealth she had built up. The big problem was that the media had exaggerated her wealth in order to sell their magazines and papers – my work confirmed a more modest amount and a sensible settlement was agreed.

Independent Forensic Accounting Services

We recognise how important a non-partisan report is when disputed matters are brought to Court or Arbitration. Our expert forensic accounting opinion is only valuable when it is independent of the views of either party. That said, the aim of Mark Jenner & Co is to provide a flexible and approachable service. Mark Jenner is “hands on” with his work, giving regular and supportive contact to clients where appropriate. If your solicitor recommends that you appoint a forensic accountant, please use the contact details on this page to call Mark directly for a confidential discussion about how his work could assist you.