Expert Witnesses And Divorce

Expert witnesses aren't just for high-stakes (and high-drama) court cases involving life and death. You may find yourself relying on an expert witness in your divorce case to help reach a fair custody or support settlement - and possibly to curtail the drama of the whole situation so that you can move forward with your life. Learn why you may find yourself turning to an expert during your divorce.

Financial Expert Witnesses

Financial experts take on many forms, but accountants, industry experts, and appraisers are often the type of financial experts that are seen in the courtroom during divorce proceedings. 

If you and your spouse own property or other assets, such as coin collections or sports cars, you may need to find someone to give you an appraisal of their real worth before a fair division of wealth is decided.

Even if you and your spouse agree on the value of a piece of property, like a vacation home, you should consider hiring an appraiser to give you an unbiased estimation of its actual value, in the current resale market. This can prevent you from making a costly mistake that won't be reversible if you realize later that you had over or undervalued the property.

The same goes for any collections, including jewelry. Things like this can become especially important if your spouse is alleging that your jewelry is part of your share of the marital assets - the resale value of most jewelry is significantly less than its purchase price or replacement value. By the same token, your spouse's gun collection may actually have more resale value than you realize. An expert can help establish the relative value of various "items of worth" so that marital assets are fairly divided.

Financial experts are also useful if one member of a divorcing couple is self-employed. Creative accounting can make a business appear less successful on  paper than it actually is, but a forensic accountant can pull out the real numbers. If you're suspicious that your self-employed ex-spouse is purposefully under-earning (or under-reporting) in order to avoid paying a fair spousal or child support amount, industry experts can be used to convince a judge that the business is capable of earning a larger amount or is more lucrative than it appears on the surface.

Is your ex-spouse claiming that he or she isn't capable of self-support in order to prolong or enhance spousal support? Or, is your spouse alleging that you are capable of earning a livable wage, despite a disabling condition? A vocational expert can be retained to help establish someone's actual earning capacity.

Medical And Psychological Experts

Medical and psychological experts are commonly called in when there are custody or support disputes. If your special-needs child requires round-the-clock supervision, and you intend to ask for additional support to provide for occasional respite care or a part-time nurse, you may need to retain the services of a medical or mental health experts in order to establish the necessity.

Psychological experts may also be retained in situations where abuse is alleged. If you suspect that your spouse has an untreated personality disorder that puts your children at risk when they're alone with him or her, you can't present the court with your opinions alone. Similarly, if you know that your spouse has a mental condition like bi-polar disorder, and refuses treatment for it, you may need to employ an expert witness to evaluate how your spouse's mental disorder and behavior has emotionally impacted your children.

The Most Significant Drawback

The most significant drawback to hiring expert witnesses is that they don't come cheap, and they typically require their fees to be paid in advance. Sometimes a report from an expert witness is enough to settle an issue, but there are times - especially if they involve a mental health issue or child custody - where both sides are willing to take experts into the actual courtroom, rather than negotiate a settlement. Once a "battle of the experts" begins, it can become very expensive, very quickly.

If your attorney suggests hiring an expert, or you believe that your spouse is hiding something and only an expert is going to be able to get to the truth of a matter, the cost is worth it. Compared to what you may have to lose, you may be getting a bargain. For more information, talk to an experienced lawyer, like Margit M. Hicks, PA Attorney at Law.