Divorcees Vie for More Than $$$ - CPAs Take Note

What are some of the trends you're seeing in clients going through a divorce? The CPA or accounting professional's role cannot be minimized when it comes to valuing the assets in a marriage.

Many CPAs counsel their clients on divorce proceedings, but lately more than the usual household items are at stake. Separating spouses are splitting up assets such as stock options, pensions, time shares and even frequent flyer miles.

What's the cost of such an ordeal? Plenty, according to one financial planner who estimates a typical divorce costs up to $20,000 depending on how much property and other factors are involved. If emotions are allowed to slow down the process, the cost could run as high as $50,000 in fees.

It's easy to see why divorce costs so much. For example, one issue of primary concern for the financial planner and accounting professional is the valuation of a pension plan. It's often the largest marital asset, yet one that many divorcing couples overlook. To divide the asset, assumptions must be made about the future value of the plan as well as the future of the working spouse's career, and miscalculations are easy to make.

If spouses own 401(k) plans, and if only one plan exists between the spouses, planners advise that one of the most important aspects of dividing up the plan is to secure a QDRO, or Qualified Domestic Relations Order. This document enables one spouse to rollover a portion of the 401(k) plan to the other spouse without current tax implications.

While the impact of the accounting professional's advice cannot be minimized, couples can consider using mediation to achieve a less-expensive outcome.

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