Tracy Coenen: Discovering Hidden Assets in Divorce

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Episode Description

Ever wondered if your spouse might be hiding assets in your divorce?

For over 25 years, forensic accountant and Fraud Coach Tracy Coenan has been working in corporate America and high net-worth divorces to help her clients discover financial misbehavior.

In this episode, she identifies the most common red flags anyone can use to spot potential financial fraud. She also breaks down the steps you can take to discover whether your spouse is hiding money, or has been using marital assets to fund an extra-marital affair.

Tracy has also created the Fraud Coach Assessment - a quick and simple tool for determining whether there may be potential financial shenanigans in your marriage or divorce.

If you're concerned that your spouse may be hiding money, diverting income, or playing financial games in your divorce, this episode can be a total eye-opener.

Go to to take Tracy's 3 minute fraud assessment and find out whether you should be concerned that your spouse is hiding assets from you in your marriage and/or divorce. (Plus you'll find a special $100 coupon code for the Divorce Money Guide there as well!)

Show Notes

About Tracy

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.

Where to Connect with Tracy

You can find Tracy on LinkedIn at Tracy Coenen, on Facebook at Tracy Coenen, on Instagram at Divorce Money Guide, and on YouTube at Divorce Money Guide.  Special Bonus exclusively for listeners of Off The Fence Podcast: you can take Tracy’s Red Flag Assessment for free and find a special $100 coupon code for the Divorce Money Guide at Tracy’s website Fraud Coach.

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Discovering Hidden Assets in Divorce

Tracy Coenen


divorce, forensic accounting, tracy, assets, financial fraud


Karen Covy, Tracy Coenen

Karen Covy Host00:03

Hello and welcome to Off the Fence, a podcast where we deconstruct difficult decision making so we can figure out what keeps us stuck and, more importantly, how do we get unstuck. I'm your host, Karen Covey, a former divorce lawyer, mediator and arbitrator, turned coach, author and entrepreneur. With me today is someone who I am so excited to have as a guest on the show. Her name is Tracy Coenen, and 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, Wisconsin, 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 that she could sit for the CPA exam. And here Tracy is today finding money in cases of corporate fraud, high net worth, divorce and other financial shenanigans. Tracy, welcome to the show.

Tracy Coenen Guest01:10

I am pretty darn excited to be here because I know we are going to have a really great discussion today. I'm so glad we finally made this happen.

Karen Covy Host01:18

I know I am as well And, if it's okay with you, I want to dive into the $6 million question right from the start and ask you how does a person who's going through a divorce, how can they tell if their spouse is hiding money?

Tracy Coenen Guest01:35

Well, the easiest way. I shouldn't call it easy, but the starting point is are there red flags that you're seeing? That's sort of like the first threshold that we want to get past. Are there some warning signs that suggest something is going wrong with the money? And then, if we see several of those warning signs, then we've got a pretty good idea that there might be some shenanigans going on. And then we want to dive in. And the easiest way is literally by getting bank statements, credit card statements, tax returns, and looking in them. And I'll tell you this people are already thinking oh my God, overwhelm, overwhelm. There's so much. How am I going to find stuff in the bank statements? These folks who are hiding money from their spouses they're not all that clever. They're usually not all that smart about it. There's probably about 10 or 12 common ways that they hide the money and all you got to do is have someone like me tell you where to look on those statements and you're going to find it.

Karen Covy Host02:33

That's brilliant. So you're talking. You talk about red flags, like give me a red flag. That would be that somebody could look at and say, oh my gosh, something, something's wrong, something’s going on here that I need to know about.

Tracy Coenen Guest02:47

Something like they start denying you access to financial information, like suddenly you can no longer get into the online banking and your spouse says, oh yeah, I had to change the password because I got locked out and I don't remember what I changed it to, but I'll get that to you. Or, oh yeah, change the password, but don't worry about it, I’ve got it handled. And they keep stonewalling. You won't let you see that information or other things where they won't let you see financial information. They're not letting you look at that tax return or they're not explaining to you what's on that tax return. They're not letting you look at documents before you sign them. They're pushing them at you saying sign this, our banker needs it, or something like that.


That's one group of really concerning really huge red flags. Other ones that you might want to look out for are a change in behavior. Sometimes these changes in behavior are related to affairs, and affairs are expensive, and so that's how that relates to the money where they are unaccounted for certain periods of time or they're not coming and going at the times they used to. They change their behavior like they're hiding their phone from you all of those kinds of things. And then another big one is changes in money habits. So maybe they're starting to use more cash than they used to before. They always use their credit and debit card and suddenly they're going to the ATM and taking money out of the ATM a lot, either because they don't know what you want you to know what they're spending money on, or they might be creating a stash of cash somewhere.

Karen Covy Host04:22

Interesting. So you know, in divorce I always say that one of the first casualties of a marriage that comes when somebody's thinking of divorce is trust. Right, trust is out the window right from the start. So because so many people don't trust their spouse, all of a sudden they're all convinced that their spouse is hiding money, squirreling it away, spending you know all the things right, and that is so. They all want to hire a forensic accountant. But you and I both know that that might not always be their best move, or at least not right out of the box. So can you explain to our listeners A what is a forensic accountant, b what do you do? And C how does how somebody is supposed to know if they need you?

Tracy Coenen Guest05:08

Yeah, those are great questions. So as a forensic accountant, I find money, I do fraud investigations. Some of the work that I've been doing for the last 25 years a lot of it is on the corporate side, when we have an executive who is stealing money or manipulating the accounting records and the financial statements. but some of it is on the personal side and that involves divorce cases. So when there are suspicions of hiding money or having secret accounts or things like that, i get involved there And what I do in those divorce cases is I am literally tracing money, I’m getting those bank statements and credit card statements and I'm going line by line and looking at all those transactions.


I actually take them and I put them in a big database and categorize them and look for where is money being moved around and really trying to quantify. is there money that has left our accounts that now is unaccounted for, maybe transferred to an account that you never knew about, maybe large cash withdrawals and suddenly that money went poof into thin air, things like that. So is there evidence that there's these other accounts? Sometimes it's. we know my husband has been having an affair and I need to know how much he's spent on his affair partner, and so I'm adding up all those transactions of what appears to be a fair activity and things like that.

Karen Covy Host06:24

So let me ask you. So people are like so they see, or they suspect they see, all this activity. They think their spouse is having an affair. How do they know whether to engage you or not? How, I mean, can they do some of this work themselves?

Tracy Coenen Guest06:45

95% of cases don't need a forensic accountant. It's not that complicated what they do. So what are the cases that do need a forensic accountant? if you have a business that has been a primary source of income for your family, or you have multiple rental properties or multiple big investments, you have complicated financial scenarios. Maybe you've got some trusts, you've got a good bit of wealth, you've got a very high earning family. Those are the situations where you really need someone like me, everyone else who kind of has the normal nine to five job, pretty predictable income, and we've got a house and a checking account and maybe an investment account and a retirement account, and maybe we have a duplex. But that's not really that complicated, it's just one property, those normal scenarios.


You almost never need a forensic accountant because you can do it yourself. You don't have to have special accounting skills; you don't have to be good with numbers. All you need is to know where to look. And I like to say these folks who are hiding money from their spouses aren't usually all that clever about it, and the main reason they're not clever about it isn't because they're not smart, it's because they think you are never gonna look. They know you're not looking at the bank statements on a monthly basis. They know that you're usually not logging into online banking because you think they've got it handled and they're your spouse and you trust them and that's normal. Of course, you think they've got it handled. They think you'll never look, so they're not too tricky about it. So if I can tell you the 10 or 12 most common places that they're gonna hide the money and how they're gonna do it, you can find it on your own.

Karen Covy Host08:22

That's brilliant, but what do you do with the person who maybe has never, even through the course of the marriage, seen a bank statement or really looked at a tax return? I mean, yeah, they signed it, but they didn't really. they don't know what it means. They didn't look like the person who really doesn't have a financial education about their own personal finances and they're just like deer in headlights. What would you call that person to do?

Tracy Coenen Guest08:51

It's so intimidating, isn't it? My first advice is to not be ashamed, because what I find in divorce is that the spouse who hasn't been managing the money often feels ashamed. Gosh, why wasn't I looking? Why wasn't I paying attention? And now I don't know what's going on. And you know what, even if you don't have suspicions of fraud or theft or hiding, you're just getting divorced. You just wanna know what's going on. And you're in that position of I haven't been looking and where do I start? It can be really, really overwhelming.


So what I have done is put together the divorce money guide to help walk people through this process. What is this financial part of your divorce? So what are some of these legal terms? you're gonna hear, what's gonna be expected of you, what kind of documents are you gonna have to turn over, and then we walk through a list of what are the kinds of financial documents you wanna consider gathering because they're gonna help you with this divorce process. How do you get your banking credit card statements? How do you get your tax returns, especially if your spouse is holding them hostage, which happens a lot in divorce, because you can get your tax returns directly from the IRS without any input from your spouse. So I show you how to do that And then I show you, once you've got those statements and those tax returns, exactly what to look for in them. So can I give you an example?

Karen Covy Host10:17

Cause that makes it easier.

Tracy Coenen Guest10:19

I think that would be really helpful. So one of the ways, one of the common ways that people hide money when they are thinking about divorce, when they're just having a pattern of dishonesty in their marriage, is by siphoning off money from their paychecks. Right, their paycheck is supposed to be deposited into the checking account that you know about, and in the old days when everyone got a paper check, it was really easy to not deposit a paycheck into that account and deposit it somewhere else. So that's one way that it can happen with direct deposit. These days takes a little more work, but guess what? You can go to your employer and you can redirect a check. You can redirect part of your check.


So one of the things that I show people how to do is we simply go through a year's worth of bank statements And I say take a green highlighter and highlight every paycheck deposit that's on those bank statements. Find out how often your spouse or you get paid It's usually 24 or 26 times a year, depending on whether you get paid every other week or twice a month and then go back and count up how many of those green highlights you have and if you're supposed to see 24 checks throughout the year and you count up those green highlights and it comes up to 20, you know you've got a problem. Or if you're going through and counting up and you count up 24 green highlights but there's a few of them that are much smaller than the others, you know that there was probably money from those paychecks that was siphoned off somewhere. So counting up the number of paychecks and looking at how much they were and kind of thinking about does that amount make sense, that didn't require any special skills, did it.

Karen Covy Host12:00

No, it did not, and this is brilliant that you're going into this, because so many people are intimidated by the numbers. They think they need a degree in higher math to do this, and what you were just talking about was simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, like if you graduated third grade or fourth grade, you got this.

Tracy Coenen Guest12:21

If you can count, you can do this one. Here's another one. We are often looking for a secret bank account. People say how would I know if my husband had a secret bank account? And like I say they don't, they're usually not too tricky about it. They will very often open a bank account and then do an electronic transfer from your checking account to that new account. So if you're going through those bank statements I always say look at all the transactions. And if you see you're banking at Chase and you see transferred to Wells Fargo Bank, you know that's a big alarm. I didn't know we had an account at Wells Fargo And that's something. Then we're gonna bring that to the attention of our attorney and say I think we need to get a subpoena for Wells Fargo to see if my husband has an account there. Right, but again, noticing that money was transferred out to an account that you never knew about didn't take any special skills. No, but it did take looking Right and it certainly. I think people need to be told. Here are the things to look for.


And so we and the divorce money guy talk about you know those 10 or 12 most common ways that the money is hidden and what you look for and then how you would document that so you can bring it to your attorney and they can do something about it. Because in working with divorce attorneys for so many years, one of the frustrations that I hear from the divorce attorneys is that their clients are saying, oh my goodness, oh my goodness, there might be missing money, he might be hiding money, but they don't have facts to back it up. And so it sounds like an emotional you know. Oh, I’m emotional and I'm just, I’m all suspicious. The attorneys want facts. Facts are what they can bring to a judge, and so I show you here's how you put it together and bring that to your attorney so that your attorney has facts to go on and can look at that and say you know, you might find you might come up with a list of transactions after you go through the divorce money guide and you add them all up and it's $3,500 worth of money that's missing from your account And your attorney's probably gonna say to you know what?


$3,500 is a lot of money, but unfortunately it might cost us more than that to fight for that and that might not be something we wanna do, and your attorney can give you the pros and cons of going after that. Now, if you come to them with a list of transactions and you found there's $40,000 gone, your attorney's gonna say, okay, we've really got a problem here. And then hopefully they will tell you here's the process for fighting to get that money back and here's what it might cost you to do that, and then you can make an informed decision of what you wanna do next. But again, your attorney has the facts that they need to be able to do something, because if you're just saying I think something's missing, they can't do anything for you.

Karen Covy Host15:07

Yeah, no, I couldn't agree more, and I think there's two important points worth noting in what you just said. One is that the attorney needs not only the information, but the information in a usable fashion, and if people just come and say, well, here's a list of bank statements, most lawyers do not have the time to comb through and you don't wanna. Even if they do, you don't wanna pay for that.

Tracy Coenen Guest15:34

You don't wanna pay for that, you can have a forensic accountant for what that's gonna cost you. Yeah, really.

Karen Covy Host15:39

I mean, that's hours and hours and hours of scrutinizing and looking and analyzing to your point. the second part of that that was so important is that it costs money to find this money. So what I used to always tell clients was that, look to your point, if you're looking for $3,500 and it costs you 10,000 to find it, that was a bad deal. But if you're going for 40,000 and it costs you 10,000 to find it, yeah, you're still out the 10, but you're net positive.

Tracy Coenen Guest16:12

Well, and here's the other thing There are some people who are kind of on the fence as to whether or not they need a forensic accountant. They're not sure. They're thinking my situation does seem a little complicated. We've got four bank accounts. I don't know if I can handle this. All What you can do is use a tool like the Divorce Money Guide to help you walk through it, to find kind of do the preliminary work, to see what kind of dollars are we talking about. And once you've had a chance to go through your bank statements and see what's going on there, then you can make a better decision. You can say, oh gosh, I’m into this and I see it is pretty complicated, and now I know that it would be a good investment for me to bring on a forensic accountant. Or maybe you get into it and you say, yeah, we've got four or five bank accounts and that seemed intimidating, but I went through it not that complicated, found what I needed to and we are ready to go.

Karen Covy Host17:03

Absolutely. And it all comes down to the whole decision-making process which ultimately and I hope people heard you it is your decision. It's not up to your lawyer or an accountant or whoever. But in order to make that decision in a well-reasoned way, you need information, you need the facts right. So it all starts with gathering that information so that you can sit down and say does pursuing this farther make sense for me or not? And I know a lot of people are also intimidated because they feel like, if they see, if they have the information, they have to go after their spouse and for one reason or another, they feel guilty, they feel intimidated, they feel whatever and they don't wanna do it. And what I hear you saying is that you can have all the information. It's still your choice what to do with it.

Tracy Coenen Guest17:54

Well, and I can't tell you how many clients I've worked with who have decided not to pursue it for a variety of reasons, but have said to me I just feel better knowing what happened. I wouldn't have wanted to settle my divorce case without having all the facts in hand so that I know what I'm settling, because one of the unfortunate things that I've seen is people deciding I just want this over with and so I'm just gonna settle. He hasn't made a full financial disclosure. I haven't seen all the accounts, but I think maybe I've seen enough and I'm just gonna get it over with and I'm being pressured to settle it.


Someone a friend used some language that I thought was really powerful. When someone's being pressured to settle and pressured to settle and they don't feel like they've been given full financial disclosure and things like that to say something like I'm happy to make a swift decision once I have all the facts, and I thought, wow, that is so powerful. That is so powerful When they are pressuring you, you gotta settle. let's make a decision. I'm offering this yes or no. I am happy to make a swift decision once I have all the facts.

Karen Covy Host19:05

That is really powerful because I've seen that happen Like I can't even begin to count how many times that one side wants the other one to make a decision about a settlement and to get this divorce over and let's move on, and we're bleeding money and all the things right, but that person isn't giving the other one the financial information they need to make a well-informed decision and without that information, you're taking a shot in the dark.

Tracy Coenen Guest19:34

People are leaving money on the table and divorces, and it's most often women. You know people sometimes get bothered when I identify a gender. You know I mostly work with women and in my experience it is still women who are in a lesser financial position most of the time in divorce not all the time, there's no absolutes in this but many times women are in the lesser financial position. They make less money. They are probably the ones who took time off their careers to raise the kids. They have less financial information in hand going into this divorce and so if they don't stand their ground and say I want the information, they are probably leaving money on the table in that settlement. Why is your spouse pushing for a quick settlement when you don't have all the information? because there is something to hide.

Karen Covy Host20:26

Yeah, and if there isn't anything to hide, give me the information. Right? It's pretty simple. And I'd like just to switch gears a little bit, though. This was all about hiding money and financial shenanigans, shall we call it? What happens? what is you know when you take it up a notch and it's now financial abuse. Can you explain what constitutes financial abuse and how to know? how to know if that's what's going on in your situation?

Tracy Coenen Guest20:57

Financial abuse is when someone uses money to control you, and there's a lot of different ways that it could present itself. They might be limiting your ability to spend money. They might be scrutinizing or micromanaging what you can spend. They might be doing things like themselves spending very freely while not allowing you to spend. They might be violating agreements that you have about how money is spent. They might be withholding financial information. So there's a variety of ways that it presents, And I will say in this you should trust your gut. If you feel like money is being used as a weapon against you, you are most likely a victim of financial abuse.

Karen Covy Host21:45

And let's say, someone is in that situation.

Tracy Coenen Guest21:49

What do you do? It's really tough because it's usually not an issue that is isolated. There are oftentimes other issues involved. There may be domestic violence involved in things like that, there may be issues with the children that are involved, and so it's really complicated. And so if you are in a position where you can start taking back some control over the money, that's, you know, the best thing to do.


And so one of the ways that I have you know, tell people that you might consider talking to your spouse and saying I need financial information is really where it's at. If you can start getting financial information, that's helpful. And so one of the techniques that I suggest is saying something like I'm really concerned. You are taking care of all of our bills and all the money, and I know you've been doing a great job with that, but what if something were to happen to you? What if you had an unexpected illness and you were very sick in the hospital? what if you were in a car accident and you died and you were really sick in the hospital? I would be in a position where I don't know where our money is, how the bills are being paid, how much we have. I'd like to start understanding more about our financial situation now, so that if something ever were to happen, that I wouldn't have to worry about that.

Karen Covy Host23:11

That's brilliant, that's. I think that's really important. but what would you say in the circumstance where one spouse is controlled, like they just won't give you the information and they're controlling the other spouse with money to an extent that the other spouse simply has none right? They're just doling out little bits at a time, maybe paying the bills or paying them late or paying. I've seen this paying the bills that are in their name on time, but paying the other spouses bills the bills that are in the other spouses named Lee, so they blow their credit. So, ultimately, what are someone's options if they're in that kind of a situation?

Tracy Coenen Guest23:53

If your name is on an account, you have a right to access that account. So if you can't get access to online banking through your spouse, you can contact the bank directly to get that access. If, for some reason, they tell you oh no, there's only one login allowed per account, you can go to the bank branch with your identification and ask for bank statements So you can get access that way. But when the kind of situation that you're talking about, where there is this extreme level of control, honestly, I think that the best option is to find a local agency that works with it And I'm going to talk about women, because that's what I'm most familiar with and it's where I see this problem most often. Find an agency that works with women who are victims of domestic violence or other similar behavior. So there are organizations around the country that help women who are going through divorce, who are victims of this type of thing, and they have great resources and suggestions for what you can do. So that's one of the best options that I know of.

Karen Covy Host25:01

Yeah, I would definitely agree, because when abuse is risen to that level if that's what you're dealing with there's more going on as well And you need support, and the domestic violence organizations will really help a lot, even if you are a victim of domestic violence.

Tracy Coenen Guest25:22

So if you're out there and you're saying, well, I'm not a victim of domestic violence, that's okay. They will be able to point you to resources that can help you for the situation that you're in, even if it doesn't include domestic violence.

Karen Covy Host25:33

Absolutely 100%. So let's dial it back and say that you're not the victim of domestic violence, but you're thinking there's some shenanigans going on. I mean, is this the kind of situation, if you're divorcing, that you should think of doing by yourself, without a lawyer? Can you do that, or do you need a lawyer?

Tracy Coenen Guest26:00

I am not a well, not a huge fan of going through the divorce process alone. If you choose not to have a lawyer, I do recommend, at the very least, that you utilize one of the online services that assists with divorce. You know, one of my favorites is Hello Divorce. They have different levels of service that will help you make sure that you're doing paperwork correctly, and they have attorneys that you can consult. You know, if you need a couple of hours here or there just to get some stuff right, I like those kinds of options. I understand that divorce is really expensive and so not everyone can afford an attorney or not everyone wants to afford an attorney, but it's really a mind field And especially if you are in one of those situations where there's a power imbalance, i hate to see you get taken advantage of by your spouse. Mediation is another good option because there will be an attorney type. Non-attorneys can be mediators as well, but there is at least another party involved to help with communication, to help you understand your options, things like that.

Karen Covy Host27:15

Let's take it a different go a different direction. Let's say that your issue is you or your spouse owns a business and he or she has been the primary breadwinner and all the money is wrapped up in the business. But you don't have access to the business records, and your spouse does, and your spouse is stonewalling and you're suspecting that there's money hidden in that business. Do you need, in that circumstance, and do you need, a business evaluator? Do you need a forensic accountant? What do you need to help you figure out? you know, is there money in the business that's being hidden or not?

Tracy Coenen Guest27:54

If you are able to, you know, access professional services, absolutely, if this business is more than a little hobby. I mean, I’m talking about a business that has been supporting your family for years, right? Yep, so you need a business evaluation. You need to know how much that business is worth, because you, probably by virtue of being married to your spouse, own part of that business. Part of that business is probably marital property, unless you have a prenup or some other special situation, right? So you need to know the value of it.


Forensic accounting can be very important as well, because these business owners get what I call the divorce flu. You file for divorce and suddenly the business is sick and we're losing customers and now the business is underwater and it's not making any money and it's not worth anything, and it's just such a scenario, and we all know that most of the time, that is crap, and a forensic account is going to help you find out what the heck is really going on with the customers, what the heck is going on with these expenses. What kind of personal expenses is your spouse running through this business and having the business pay for which, by the way, is no different than taking a paycheck. It's the equivalent of taking a paycheck right, and so we want to know what those expenses are. So, yeah, both the business valuation and the forensic accountant can be really important. Again, it can be very costly, though, so we want to make sure that that's worthwhile.

Karen Covy Host29:23

Absolutely, but just so that people know. I mean, I know you and I know, but is there a difference between a business value evaluator and a forensic accountant, or can one person do both?

Tracy Coenen Guest29:36

Absolutely. So you want to make sure, though, what I would look for is a person who does business valuations, who also does forensic accounting. That's the right way to go about it, and you want to make sure that they really do forensic accounting and that they don't just say, yeah, yeah, we'll get it, we'll get it. So you want someone who's really going to take that critical look. Now, for example, I don't do business valuations, I only do the forensic accounting piece. So when someone comes to me and says I need both of these, I say it would be a great option to find a business valuation person who does both Yeah, both pieces. Business valuation. People only do the business valuation. So I work hand in hand with business valuators all the time, because we, you know, each do something a little bit different, but if you can find a business valuation person who does do forensic accounting as well, that's a great option, because it does save you money.

Karen Covy Host30:30

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. But I think another important thing to recognize, and what you're saying is that to get through a divorce, well you, it often takes a team, and I know that's not what people want to hear, because the minute they hear it, they hear the dollar signs ringing up. But the truth is, if you've got a lot to lose, is what it's an investment to hire the right team to make sure that you get what you should be getting in a divorce, instead of whatever your spouse is willing to give you, which could be a very different amount.

Tracy Coenen Guest31:05

Well, and also, if you get the right team and you get them in early, you will save yourself money in the long run. Right, because a disorganized approach to a divorce cost you more money in the long run. We end up backtracking. Or if you bring a forensic accountant in very late in the process, you might not have time to do all the things you need to do. There might be issues that you can't pursue that you otherwise could have.


Sometimes people end up paying a lot more in attorney's fees to have their attorney look at issues and do certain work that they could have had a different professional do better. So in the case of a forensic accountant, what I do see many times is an attorney will say to a client you know you might want to look into a forensic accountant. The client says I can't afford that, it's too much. And the attorney says let my office start looking at your bank statements and they might have a paralegal start digging into them. The attorney might start digging into them and before you know it, you have thousands of dollars into having the law firm look at these bank statements. Well, you might as well have hired a forensic accountant then, someone who's really specialized in doing that kind of work.

Karen Covy Host32:20

Yeah, and besides, what the law firm is probably going to tell you is they've seen enough to where you need a forensic accountant. So you just paid thousands of dollars to the lawyer to tell you, yes, you need to pay more thousands of dollars to the other professional who's going to redo all the same work, because they have to look at the same documents.

Tracy Coenen Guest32:41

Right, and you know I'm not trying to trash divorce attorneys here. I think that they approach this from a good place. They're trying to help. They're trying to give you an option when you're saying I can't or don't want to hire forensic accountant. They're trying to be helpful.


I'm just saying that if we back this up way back to the beginning of the divorce process, if you've got the right people in place and one really key person is that divorce coach, someone like a Karen Covey, to help you understand what kinds of services you might need, what kinds of things in your case are important I'm you know I love all the resources on the internet, but do not crowdsource your divorce. Get a professional who will sit down with you and understand the details of your situation and can say here are the kinds of professionals you might consider working with. And I bet, karen, if we're talking about forensic accounting, you're going to take all the facts that you know about their case and you're going to make a recommendation Yes, I think you would be in your best interest to have a forensic accountant, because or no, I don't think your case warrants that. You're you've seen so many divorces. You're in a great position to give that right advice, and that's why a divorce coach can be so important.

Karen Covy Host33:53

Absolutely, and that's what I tell my clients as well. It's that it's a question of having an experienced guide, like somebody who's actually done this more than once, more than just their own divorce, right, right, and I've been around for longer than I care to admit to, so this ain't my first rodeo And you know to have somebody who can help you look at the information, get the information, figure out where your holes are and then make a plan, say, give you advice, you need this professional, this professional, this professional. You don't need this professional, this professional, this professional. And get it all going. And you know there's something in what you said that is so important about when do you hire a forensic accountant. I know you and I have had this conversation offline when people come to you at the last minute, why does that make a difference when you hire the forensic accountant?

Tracy Coenen Guest34:51

Well, because, first of all, I need a certain amount of time to do the work that I have to do, and I have other clients And so I might not be able to start on your case right away. I can't tell you how often I get a phone call from someone saying we have a hearing in two weeks and the work has to be done before then. That's impossible, it's just impossible. But the other thing is I might get into my work and say, hey, we need more information, we need bank statements that go back further, or we need to go back to the business that your spouse runs and we need to ask for certain other documents that were not produced.


Maybe they were asked for and someone said, oh, we don't have that. And I can say, no, let's ask for it another way. They have it. You just didn't ask for it using the right terms, because people will play games, try to be tricky. If you didn't call or report the certain right name, they'll say we don't have that right. So we want time to be able to follow up on getting more documents if we need them.

Karen Covy Host35:47

Yeah, that makes. That makes so much sense. And I hope people hear it, because I tell my clients in the coaching space the exact same thing You, if you do this, if you start your divorce off right from the beginning, you will have a much easier time of it and it will ultimately be way less expensive and take a shorter amount of time. Then, if you wait till you've made a mess and you're stuck in the middle and now you're saying help me, help me. It doesn't always go well when you do that. So and it sounds like for forensic accounting that's exactly the same thing.

Tracy Coenen Guest36:24

Right. And if you came to me and I said I looked at what you got going on the case And if I said to you you know what? you're a little bit early for me. Get some of these discovery documents and then come back to me and let's talk again, great, no problem. That's a whole lot better position to be in than to have me tell you love to help you but I can't because you don't have enough time.

Karen Covy Host36:45

Yeah, 100% Tracy. this has been such an interesting and valuable conversation. Thank you so much. Can you tell the listeners where they can find you?

Tracy Coenen Guest36:55

Absolutely So. My website is, because I like to say I'm your fraud coach through your divorce, and on that site I've set up a page for your listeners. It's, because that's pretty easy to remember. So at, what you're going to find is some resources. So I talked a lot today about the Divorce Money Guide, so there is a link there for people to take a look at that. There's also a link to my new book Find Me the Money, which is all about the story of Jackie and her cheating husband, Derek, who was hiding money, and how she navigated her divorce to figure out what was going on with the money.


And I also have there something I call the red flag assessment. If you have seen some of those red flags in your spouse but you don't know how worried you should be, you've seen maybe some changes in behavior, some withholding of financial documents, things like that, but you're not sure. Am I overblowing this? Am I minimizing it? I don't know what am I doing. You can take that quiz. It'll take you about three minutes and I'll let you know how worried you should be. So I know that was a lot. I know that was a lot. Divorce is hard. It's one of the most terrible things that you can go through, and I've been through it with hundreds of men and women who are in difficult financial positions and who need answers about the money, and so I just hope that something I said today resonated with people and helped them, gave them more direction, provided them comfort, gave them some sort of peace of mind about what they're going through.

Karen Covy Host38:33

Tracy, you have shared so much, And to share that red flag assessment, I think is just awesome And I want to thank you for that and really encourage anybody who's listening to this episode or watching us on YouTube. Go to, Take the assessment. It doesn't cost anything, correct, and it will give you peace of mind, And in divorce, you know, that's one thing that's really in short supply. So if you need to worry, you want to worry. If you don't need to worry, you want to be able to sleep at night. So I really encourage people to go to the page, take the assessment. Thank you so much, Tracy, for sharing all of your nuggets of wisdom. I really appreciate it. I know my audience does as well. And for those of you who are listening or watching, if you like this episode, if you appreciate what we've been talking about and you want to hear more, give this a thumbs up, like subscribe, and we'll see you again in the next episode.

Head shot of Karen Covy in an Orange jacket smiling at the camera with her hand on her chin.

Karen Covy is a Divorce Coach, Lawyer, Mediator, Author, and Speaker. She coaches high net worth professionals and successful business owners to make hard decisions about their marriage with confidence, and to navigate divorce with dignity.  She speaks and writes about decision-making, divorce, and living life on your terms. To connect with Karen and discover how she can help you, CLICK HERE.


divorce and taxes, divorce financial planning, divorce strategy, off the fence podcast

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