How to Take a Financial Pulse: Is That Deadbeat Really Broke?


Robert Tie
Contributing Writer, Fraud Magazine

John "Mick" Elliott, CFE, has a new client. She is in a family court battle — one of the arenas in which Elliott provides litigation support. Although no children are involved, the stakes are high.

The client, a financially strapped divorcée, came to Elliott for help when her ex-husband stopped paying alimony. The former spouse says he is broke. Perhaps believing that the best defense is a good offense, he is trying to turn the tables by making his own demand for alimony.

But Elliott's client thinks her ex is lying. As a high-end professional, she says, he has always been a big earner.


Elliott's practice and the former couple's now-separate residences are in California, which is one of nine community property states; the others are Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.

Under state law in these jurisdictions, couples have equal shares in all possessions they acquire during their marriage. If they divorce, those assets are divided between them. Each state's law provides its own criteria for determining what is an "equal" distribution of the couple's property and whether alimony to either party is warranted.

For example, to divide community property in California, the court would consider, among other things, a quantitative criterion — the provision in section 2550 of the California Family Code, which states that "… the court shall …divide the community estate of the parties equally."

Similarly, to determine whether spousal support is justified and, if so, who should pay it and how much, the court would consider, among other things, the qualitative criteria cited in section 4320 of the California Family Code. These include the "needs of each party based on the standard of living established during the marriage," and the "age and health of the parties."

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