What’s a Certified Financial Litigator?
Every divorce and family law case involves financial issues of one type or another. Every case involving property and debt division requires the identification and valuation of assets and liabilities. And, every case involving support, such as alimony or child support, requires identification of all sources of income of each party and, where appropriate, attribution or imputation of income for unemployed and under-employed parties.
Financial matters are unavoidably a major focus in family law and divorce cases. Yet, many parties find themselves ill-equipped to assess these issues, particularly in the throws of litigation. Many family law attorneys, in fact, have little to no training on some of the most impactful financial issues involved. While it’s not uncommon for family law attorneys to learn through their casework, those not yet exposed to a particular area of financial complexity find themselves at a disadvantage when litigating a new issue, such as the value of a business or intellectual property, or the income from a golden parachute executive severance package.
While all experienced family law attorneys have dealt with financial issues, certified financial litigators (“CFLs”) have been vetted through training and testing to ensure a well-rounded, comprehensive understanding of a variety of more complicated, highly-relevant financial issues.
American Academy for Certified Financial Litigators
The American Academy for Certified Financial Litigators (“AACFL”) is the organization that certifies financial litigators. Its mission is to “provide innovative financial knowledge to attorneys dealing with financial issues in their practice.”
The AACFL is a private organization, whose standards for certification are not regulated by a state authority or the American Bar Association. Nonetheless, the AACFL’s CFL certification demonstrates the completion of extensive training in financial matters, as well as the passage of the CFL examination that tests the litigator’s financial acumen.
How Does an Attorney Become a Certified Financial Litigator?
To become a CFL, the AACFL requires that an attorney commit to improving their knowledge of financial matters in litigation. The attorney must also adhere to high ethical standards.
To begin the CFL certification process, an attorney must first request applicant status and be accepted by the Academy. This involves a determination that the attorney is in good standing and has met certain educational and ethical requirements. The attorney then completes the CFL training program, followed by an examination. Only after passing this exam will the participant will have completed the course.
Next, the member applies for certified financial litigator membership. A certification committee reviews the member’s application, training, and exam performance. The AACFL accepts only a limited number of applications per geographic region.
Once a litigator has attained CFL certification, the member has access to additional resources, including further education and training.
What Does the Certified Financial Litigator Training Program Cover?
The CFL training curriculum is rigorous and incorporates the insights of various financial experts, including CPAs, CFAs, MBAs, investment experts, compensation experts, and forensic accounting experts. The AACFL trains attorneys completing the CFL program on the following financial topics:
- Accounting for Attorneys;
- Financial Statement Analysis;
- The Anatomy of Tax Returns and Tax Documents;
- Tax Return Analysis;
- Understanding Investments;
- Compensation Issues;
- Business Valuation;
- Forensic Accounting;
- Economic Analysis for Attorneys;
- Income Available for Support Purposes;
- Lost Profits and Lost Wages;
- How to Cross Examine a Financial Expert; and,
- Preparing Targeted Document Requests for Financial Data.
Notably, there is no requirement in Massachusetts that divorce and family law attorneys receive training in these topics. But an understanding of these issues is essential in litigating the financial aspects of many cases, especially more complicated financial cases.
How Can a Certified Financial Litigator Help in a Divorce Case?
Most seasoned family law attorneys have experience in financial matters. However, a CFL’s specialized training can optimize your chances of a beneficial financial outcome in your divorce or other family law case.
First, working with a CFL can offer you greater case efficiency. And with an advanced comprehension of financial matters, a CFL can carry more credibility and persuasiveness in the negotiation process. A CFL understands the ins and outs of financial matters and is specially equipped to identify blind spots and areas of concern regarding finances in litigation. From the start of a case, a CFL is positioned to best assess your case’s strengths, weaknesses, and strategy from a financial standpoint. This nuanced perspective enables a CFL to more astutely negotiate a favorable outcome on behalf of a client.
Not only do CFLs have the substantive knowledge to successfully resolve a case, but they also have dedicated themselves to high moral and ethical standards. For instance, CFLs must continuously strive to increase their technical competence and effectiveness. And, as AACFL members, CFLs must use their training to reduce unnecessary litigation (a cost-savings for a client).
Complex Financial Matters
Working with a CFL can be especially beneficial in cases involving complex financial matters. Complex financial cases can include those in which at least one party is a high-income earner, for example. Or, perhaps a case in which a party is a business owner or shareholder. Other complex financial cases may involve investment income or stock compensation, or even atypical assets like intellectual property. Remember, CFLs receive specialized training on these complex financial matters–on topics ranging from identification of potential problems or considerations to valuation issues to taxation matters. A CFL can use this knowledge to educate you regarding the nuances of your case and position you for the best legal outcome.
The certified financial litigators at Turco Legal have undergone rigorous training in the financial aspects of divorce and family law litigation. While every attorney at the firm has extensive experience litigating financial issues, working with a CFL means your strongest advocate has been trained and tested across a spectrum of financial matters. Call (866) 995-6663 to schedule a free consultation or click below.