Forensic Accountant

Irina Anissimova, CPA, CFF

Random Thoughts

This is a collection of occasional random facts, notes, unpolished personal opinions and obseravtions related to my work in divorce litigation. They are here not so much as useful information, but to provide food for thought and an opportunity to look at the divorce process from different angles and multiple points of view. 

Divorce is a complex process and a drastic change in lives of all its participants. It has long lasting repercussions in peoples' lives which should be considered at the start (but usually are not). 

You can also find an expanded and illustrated version of this blog at: https://www.facebook.com/DivorceCaliforniaStyle?ref=bookmarks

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Work vs. family

Posted on September 30, 2015 at 6:15 PM Comments comments (0)

" Mark Granovetter says that modern institutional networks are marked by “the strength of weak ties”, by which he partly means that fleeting forms of association are more useful to people than long-term connections, and partly that strong social ties like loyalty have ceased to be compelling.

 

Strong ties depend, by contrast, on long association. And more personally they depend on a willingness to make commitments to others.

 

Detachment and superficial cooperativeness are better armor for dealing with current realities than behavior based on values of loyalty and service. It is the time dimension of the new capitalism, rather than high-tech data transmission, global stock markets, or free trade, which most directly affects people’s emotional lives outside the workplace. Transposed to the family realm, “No long term” means keep moving, don’t commit yourself, and don’t sacrifice.

 

The children don’t see commitment practiced in the lives of their parents or their parents’ generation.  [The emphasis on teamwork and open discussion marks an enlightened, flexible workplace] Practiced at home, teamwork is destructive, marking an absence of authority and of firm guidance in raising children. 

 

Behavior which earns success or even just survival at work thus gives ... little to offer in the way of a parental role model. In fact, ... the problem is just the reverse: how can [parents] protect family relations from succumbing to the short-term behavior, the meeting mind-set, and above all the weakness of loyalty and commitment which mark the modern workplace?"

From THE CORROSION OF CHARACTER: The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism/By Richard Sennett

 

Technological change

Posted on September 10, 2015 at 7:10 PM Comments comments (0)

I am working on separate property tracing, which presents an opportunity for bitching about unexpected negative impacts of technological changes on people's endeavours. Here is how it applies to tracing:

 

Separate property tracing employs "follow the money" strategy and its success depends on the availability of documents that show the cash flow. No documents, no tracing, no proof there was and still remains any separate property. Most people do not keep statements from their bank accounts for more than couple years - they see no need and have no space to do so.

Then what do my clients do when I ask them to find statements from half a dozen of their bank accounts (including closed ones) from 1994 through 2015? Predictably, they go to financial institutions and ask for those old statements.

 

Back in the day when banks kept records on paper it was possible to dig out 20 year old statements, because following the retention rules and disposing of everything older than 7 or 10 years required manual labor and adding more storage space was cheaper.

 

Financial institutions no longer keep documents on paper - everything is automated and digital. This is convenient, but this convenience comes at a price few people contemplate - there is always a possibility of a data breach and associated massive costs to the institution. The incentive with respect to old documents has been turned upside down - now it is safer and easier to destroy them as soon as the retention period expires.

 

This is not a good news for my tracing clients and I am starting to see some very troubling outcomes.

On child support - a comment

Posted on August 24, 2015 at 8:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Child support payors (mostly fathers in my experience) often defend their desire to decrease or eliminate payments arguing that the money is not spent on the children's needs alone. This is an erroneous line of reasoning at best and a disingenuous one at worst.

 

Yes, the payment may be higher than the combined expenses on children's food, clothes and entertainment. But spending on children does not end with these items. The biggest overlooked ingredient is housing cost.

 

A child needs a place to live and an opportunity to acquire at least some education. Housing costs in large part depend on the quality of the respective school district. They are also influenced by the prevailing income distribution in the area. In places like Silicon Valley where high salaries paid by hi-tech industry drive housing costs, lodging can easily consume more than 40% of one's income and there is no discount for single parents with children.

 

No, in most cases I see child support is NOT too high, it is more likely to be too low.

 

On child support - a quote

Posted on August 24, 2015 at 7:45 PM Comments comments (0)

"Child support is a continuing sore spot in most coparenting relationships, as mothers often feel - AND THE DATA SUBSTANTIATE - that child support is inadequate, and fathers often feel that they are contributing more than their fair share. ... Of the millions of women who are entitled to child support, fewer than half receive payments as ordered, about one third are paid a fraction of what they have been promised, and one fourth of the women get nothing. Wealthier men do not have a better record of child support. " Some men unilaterally cut child support when their ex-wifes begin to earn good salaries or marry well-to-do second husbands. Others reduce child support when they themselves remarry, especially if they acquire stepchildren or have more children with the second wife. "Not one father in our study voluntarily raised child support because his ex-wife was physically or psychologically not well."

From: Second Chances: Men, Women and Children a decade after divorce/By Judith Wallerstein & Sandra Blakeslee.

Payments towards support arrears

Posted on August 18, 2015 at 7:45 PM Comments comments (0)

 

From CA Code of Civil Procedure.

In plain English:

If a debtor is in arrears and pays some amount towards the satisfaction of the debt, in all situations except support arrears the amount of payment is first applied to accrued interest and then to the principal of the debt.

If the money is paid towards support arrears, it is first applied towards the principal and then to accrued interest.

In the first situation interest keeps accruing because when the payment is not sufficient to cover both interest and principal, there always remains some principal amount to accrue interest on.

In the second situation accrual of interest may stop because the principal is paid off, which freezes the debt. There is also a "technical" question of how to collect interest on the debt that has already been paid.

Legal interest rate is 10% (simple interest) which means that quite often after several years the amount of accrued interest becomes comparable to the principal of the debt.

Why is the law favoring deadbeat dads who do not want to support their children? Or were the legislators thinking about their own support arrears to their wives when they introduced this exception in 2009?

Original text:

Section 695.220.

Money received in satisfaction of a money judgment, except a money judgment for support, is to be credited as follows:

(a) The money is first to be credited against the amounts described in subdivision (b) of Section 685.050 that are collected by the levying officer.

(b) Any remaining money is next to be credited against any fee due the court pursuant to Section 6103.5 or 68511.3 of the Government Code, which are to be remitted to the court by the levying officer.

(c) Any remaining money is next to be credited against the accrued interest that remains unsatisfied.

(d) Any remaining money is to be credited against the principal amount of the judgment remaining unsatisfied. If the judgment is payable in installments, the remaining money is to be credited against the matured installments in the order in which they matured.

Section 695.221.

Satisfaction of a money judgment for support shall be credited as follows:

(a) The money shall first be credited against the current month's support.

(b) Any remaining money shall next be credited against the principal amount of the judgment remaining unsatisfied. If the judgment is payable in installments, the remaining money shall be credited against the matured installments in the order in which they matured.

(c) Any remaining money shall be credited against the accrued interest that remains unsatisfied.



Mid-life divorce

Posted on August 15, 2015 at 7:50 PM Comments comments (0)

"For both men and women, marriage in middle or later life has an additional and very important function: it provides an internal buffer against the anxieties of aging, of being old and alone, and of facing the inevitability of death. It also provides external supports to cope with the increasing disabilities and infirmities of old age. When the struscture is removed, they are left feeling extremely vulnerable, and the external symptoms of physical deterioration are symbolic of internal conflict and emotional distress. Not everyone can be expected to reconstruct a happy life following divorce. Not everyone is possessed of the inner resources, or the youth and beauty, to attract external supports. The capacity to change is not a given and cannot be taken for granted."

From: Second Chances: Men, Women and Children a decade after divorce/By Judith Wallerstein & Sandra Blakeslee.

Incidental losses & acquisitions

Posted on August 1, 2015 at 6:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Divorce has repercussions way beyond the relationship of the two people with "irreconcilable differences". It is often overlooked (at least at the beginning) that family members and friends end up being divided between the former spouses and/or lost altogether. New friends and relations are also acquired, whether one wants and likes it or not.

These losses and acquisitions are hard to evaluate and balance out, especially for children.

On adultery

Posted on July 11, 2015 at 4:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Yesterday chat with my hairdresser which goes with a hair cut made me think of a triangle wife-husband-mistress (or husband-wife-lover) and who is to blame for it. I have been on both wife and mistress sides of it myself and I have talked to many men who found themselves in the middle, so here is my "expert opinion" on the issue:

First, the party responsible for this whole arrangement is the cheating spouse and not the other two participants. This arrangement does not go with a highly conflicted marriage, so its existence itself is predicated on the relationship where the other spouse does not have any suspicions and is more or less content with his/her marital life. The outsider (mistress or lover) can have no clue about what is going inside the marriage and either does not know at first that the cheater is married or is deceived into thinking that the marriage is de facto defunct and the cheated spouse does not care. The outsider is offered something he/she finds appealing and available at little or no cost. The only person who should be able to foresee what he/she is starting is the cheating spouse because he/she is the one who makes a decision to engage with the outsider. So yes, I believe that it is the cheating spouse who should bear the responsibility and the blame.

Interestingly, men in the middle usually do not realize what they have got themselves into until they are found out and suddenly find themselves confronted with the urgent need to make unpleasant choices. I have not talked to enough women in the middle to make any conclusions about their perceptions.

In modern times, when divorce is easy to get and extra-marital affairs bring with them no shame or social disapproval, the triangular arrangement is very unstable. The longer it goes, the closer is the time it blows up and the louder is the bang.

Spending time with the outsider requires lying to the cheated spouse. Usually this time also increases to a point when the cheated spouse starts feeling neglected. Lying is difficult and takes more and more effort over time, so eventually, the cheated spouse becomes suspicious and watchful while the outsider grows to be more and more expectant and demanding. When the cheated spouse finds out about the ongoing affair, there is nothing to compel her/him to accept it, there is no real economic necessity or social pressure, like 150 years ago.

I am loss averse, so I believe that for the cheating spouse and the outsider it is best not to get oneself into a triangle.

The outsider does not always have a choice at the start. When the explosion occurs, it is better for him/her to run fast and far from the perpetrator - he/she is not worth keeping, having demonstrated his/her dishonesty and inability (or lack of desire) to resolve his/her own problems.

The cheating spouse, who has the choice at the start, is better off erring on the side of caution and ending/suspending a promising outside relationship until his/her marriage is resolved. It is better (and usually much cheaper) to get a divorce first and then to find another long term partner, not the other way around.

On relationship advice

Posted on June 30, 2015 at 4:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Herds of relationship gurus and tons of books on how to improve one's marriage have made us believe that we can control the progress and development of our marriages. 

What is overlooked (or disregarded) is that it takes two to tango: if one's partner does not reciprocate, or takes one's efforts for granted, or misinterprets them, there is absolutely NOTHING one can do about it. All individual efforts are useless if the other partner does not want to carry his/her half of the relationship maintenance load.

It is not at all unusual for marriages to break because of one spouse's lack of desire to maintain them. The well established tradition of Old Wife Dumping is an example.

Extra marital affairs

Posted on June 15, 2015 at 4:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Very often a divorce is triggered by an affair. There are two types: a one night stand and a long term entanglement.

A short term type can be successfully hidden and, if accidentally uncovered, can be eventually disregarded by the offended spouse (after some fuss) - it is, after all, SHORT TERM, which means no one involved has any expectations or commitments, it is, therefore, reasonably easy for the guily party to give up and everybody in his/her sane mind knows that temptations are hard to resist.

A long term affair is a different thing altogether. These are very hard to hide - elaborate long term lying is difficult and eventually the truth comes out. Long term affairs imply simultaneous commitments to two sides - a spouse and a mistress/lover - and these two sides usually have very different desires and aspirations. Long term affairs are very threatening to the cheated spouse - she/he looses all trust and is under pressure to protect him/herself from further abuse and humiliation.

Long term affairs very often break marriages and, after the irreparable damage is done, prove to be not worth the trouble.


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