THE Amicable Divorce Expert podcast: https://judyweigle.podbean.com/e/find-the-money-w-tracy-coenen-forensic-accountant-and-author-of-the-divorce-money-guide/
Tracy Coenen, forensic accountant and author of the Divorce Money Guide, explained a lot about how the spouse who knows less about the family finances can be brought up to date on what the family has and what the family owes. Here are some of Tray’s suggestions:
- Explain to your spouse that you would like to be knowledgeable about the family finances for the health and welfare of the family. Both spouses should always know exactly how money is coming in and going out of the family. There are so many horror stories about the earning spouse dying and the remaining spouse learning about the family finances for the first time at that time and through the Will, if there is one. Just because a stay-at-home spouse isn’t working outside of the home, doesn’t mean that spouse should be clueless about the finances of the family.
- If the other spouse balks at the request, or becomes defensive, don’t back down, apologize, or even argue. Just gently stand firm and say that an equal partnership is important, and in case of emergency, both spouses need to be equally knowledgeable about what they have and where the investments are.
- A stay-at-home spouse starts can learn about the family money through the income tax reports. Never just sign; read through the entire document. What you don’t understand can be easily explained by your accountant.
- Any time a stay-at-home spouse is asked to sign anything by the other spouse, read it first and ask questions. If the other spouse becomes defensive, don’t jump the gun and immediately become suspicious that anything is being hidden. The other spouse may only be experiencing a bruised ego. The most important part of the dialogue with the other spouse is to insure him/her that the health and welfare of the family is paramount, and can best be supported by both spouses being equally informed.
- Both spouses can run credit reports on themselves to see what is documented in their names. Mistakes can happen and false information can exist on a credit report, along with financial commitments that perhaps should be dealt with, removed or amended. This is also another way of seeing what is in the family credit portfolio.
- If a divorce is being filed, and there are extensive assets to be distributed, like a family business that needs to be evaluated, a forensic accountant should be called.
- If one spouse believes there are hidden assets like bank accounts, a forensic accountant can help by reviewing submitted bank statements to find money transfers to other accounts that may not have been submitted. Anything beyond this would go to a financial detective. But a financial detective can only do so much if accounts are well hidden.
- If a financial detective is hired, there is a good case for financial abuse and financial infidelity being committed. Financial abuse if using money as power and control over the other spouse. Financial infidelity is making or using money without the knowledge of the other spouse.
- In this day and age it’s a good idea for each spouse to be financially independent. Being financially independent allows for freedom of behavior and freedom of decision-making. No spouse should feel powerless in making life choices because they don’t have money.
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Tracy has been investigating fraud for more than 25 years, but she didn’t always want to be a forensic accountant. With a dream of one day being a prison warden, Tracy went to Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI to get a criminology degree. A class on financial crime investigations reminded her how much she loved Encyclopedia Brown books as a kid. She continued her criminology degree, but added accounting and economics courses so she could sit for the CPA exam… and here Tracy is, finding money in cases of corporate fraud, high net worth divorce, and other financial shenanigans.