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Article:

Will your financial evidence stand up in the family court?

10 September 2020

Karyn Lander, Senior Manager, Advisory, Forensic Services |

COVID-19 has revealed many cracks in our society. The pandemic is putting additional pressure on families due to financial stress and social isolation. An increase in urgent applications to the Family Court is adding to an already backlogged system with physical hearings adjourned during the early stages of COVID-19 and trials delayed.

Another factor that has slowed down the ability to resolve matters/settlements quickly is the difficulty in predicting the continuing effect of the virus on businesses and in particular business valuations. Valuations prepared prior to COVID-19 may no longer be relevant making it hard to resolve property matters when the value of the property pool is uncertain.

This changing environment means that Family Lawyers need to apply more scrutiny and ask the following questions when looking at financial documents.

  • Do you know what you are looking at? Are they unaudited special purpose financial statements?
  • Have the documents been prepared with a family law dispute in mind? Do they take into account changes in circumstances due to COVID-19, for example claiming a lower income?
  • Are the financial reports current, and do they take into account the impacts of COVID-19?
  • Is there evidence of deflation of assets or decreasing of profits?
  • Are the accruals legitimate expenses and will they be paid?
  • Can you establish ownership of the entities and are there inter-related entities that have not been disclosed?

BDO’s Forensics team can assist Family Lawyers and provide litigation support, allowing you to focus on your client. There are a range of services that we can provide. We can assist in examining disclosure documents and identifying missing information or related entities that may not have been disclosed and we can also trace the movement of funds and help identify if they have been transferred into other bank accounts, shares, assets or other property. We can identify the asset/entity ownership to assist in the preparation of your Form 13. Our team can prepare expert reports, act as valuation consultants and assist with property settlements.

We also have a specialised digital forensics team that can assist with the collection and preservation of evidence from electronic devices including computers, thumb drives and mobile phones.  From this, we analyse electronic information including internet browsing, email and social media use to provide evidence.

In addition to relevant accounting and business valuation qualifications, members of our team are qualified investigators, certified through WA Police, and hold Cert III and Cert IV investigation qualifications enabling us to assist with any investigative services required.

Whether you require peace of mind that all assets and liabilities have been taken into account and a fair value attributed to them or if you need to examine financial information more closely, we can help.

Contact your local partner for a confidential discussion to see how we can simplify the financial side of family law, leaving you to concentrate on the legal matters