Divorce is a very difficult time for individuals involving the dissolution of a life partnership expected to last “until death to us part.” The financial aspects of divorce settlements can be complicated, particularly where one party owns their own business or a share of business.
Forensic accountants typically become involved if the courts require a valuation of a business or shareholding. Additionally, we can advise on the liquidity of a company and the availability of cash to help fund a settlement. Normally a forensic accountant is jointly instructed to act in an independent capacity to prepare a report which the advisers and the court can use to consider the division of assets.
We can assist in all stages of the process and have available a checklist of information to assist in valuing business interests. If you would like to receive a copy of this please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have worked with many solicitors in the area so if you need a referral to obtain expert legal advice please contact us. Alternatively the Law Society website can help you find a solicitor: http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/find-a-solicitor/
Single Joint Expert
Many of our instructions in divorce proceedings are to act as single joint expert reporting to both parties. In such cases the solicitors involved will agree which expert should be instructed and also agree the nature and wording of the instructions.
Following submission of our report, both parties then have the opportunity to submit written questions to the expert seeking clarification of matters included in the report. Again, as a jointly instructed expert, we will copy any questions raised and replies to both parties.
The aim of joint instructions is to reduce the time and costs involved in obtaining an expert’s opinion rather than the previous practice of each party obtaining their own experts. In such cases the experts could have widely differing views and spend significant time arguing their positions to the detriment of what is already a difficult process for the individuals involved.
Shadow Experts and Questionnaires
Although jointly instructed experts have helped to streamline the process of obtaining expert opinion on a matter there are times when further input from a forensic accountant may be required. This is the role of the “shadow” expert.
A use of a shadow expert is not as sinister as it sounds. It merely means that one party is obtaining advice from an expert and there is no need to disclose the name of the expert or indeed that such advice has been sought.
When required we are able to assist solicitors with the preparation of questionnaires in respect of either disclosures on Form E or reports prepared by a previously appointed joint expert.
We have seen many cases where it appears the joint expert has not fully understood the financial position of a business or one of the parties has not properly engaged with the joint expert. It can be vital that this position is corrected through properly presented questions to the jointly instructed expert.
If one or both parties involved in a divorce own their own business or a shareholding in a business then input will often be required from a forensic accountant to value such interests. This will assist in dividing the matrimonial assets and in assessing the overall resources available to reach a settlement.
We have considerable experience in the valuation of companies, shareholdings, partnerships, etc in divorce proceedings, shareholder disputes and commercial litigation.
We are able to use our knowledge from working on actual deals together with access to databases, indices and historical trends which enable us to report authoritively on the value of business interests.
John Green is also managing director of Pierce Corporate Finance and holds the CF qualification of the ICAEW. He is able to bring this experience to valuing companies and individual shareholdings.
When advising on the valuation of business interests we are often also instructed to consider the liquidity of a business to asses funds which could be taken out to assist in a settlement.
In some cases companies may have a significant value but there are no obvious funds available to reach a settlement. This can cause problems in reaching a clean break which is typically what the parties are looking for. In such cases we can examine the working capital requirements of the business together with any borrowing capacity to advise whether there is any scope for the business to pay out a lump sum.
Such advice may include examining the existing resources of the business together with any additional external funding which may be available.
Our experts are able to advise on the tax aspects of matrimonial finance, such as extracting funds from a business, capital gains tax on the sale of a business or in assessing the net income available to the parties.
We are also able to utilise our tax team at Pierce when the issues involved require specialist input.
High Net Worth Individuals
Divorce cases involving high net worth individuals bring their own issues as they tend to involve a broad range of assets and investments together with multiple business interests.
We are experienced at dealing with high net worth individuals and the particular issues arising in such cases.
We are able to work alongside financial advisers where there are substantial investment assets and/or pension arrangements which require consideration.