Experts In Divorce: Do I Need One?

It is no secret that divorce proceedings, especially those involving contested issues of custody and high-end financial matters, can be very expensive and may involve more than just the parties and their respective divorce lawyers.  All of this of course comes with an expense, especially when these matters require the use of an expert.  Too often clients come in, demanding custody or a parenting time plan and are all too eager to rely upon the need for an “expert”. The same emotion drives this discussion often with respect to financial aspects, with allegations that there is money hidden, assets unknown or undisclosed, or in many self-employment cases, issues regarding income.  Unfortunately, many clients are shocked when told the expense associated with employing an expert which can range anywhere from $10,000.00-$100,000.00 throughout the course of the litigation.  Therefore, the issue for client’s going through a divorce is 1) do I need an expert and 2) does the cost of employing an expert outweigh the benefit.

As to the need for an expert, in family law matters, including but not limited to divorce, there are a variety of issues which require the expertise of an expert, not necessarily to know the issues and opine on them, but to provide the expert proof and testimony that would be accepted by the Court.  For example, many clients come into the office with allegations of substance abuse which they have of course witnessed first-hand, however, but for their testimony, there would be no evidence to prove.  Therefore, while the client’s first-hand knowledge is certainly a factor and will be relied upon, the client is not an expert in substance abuse nor an expert of any kind, rather they are considered a lay witness only.  This is the same with respect to financials as a client will often know the lifestyle that they lived and that it exceeds the disclosures made by the other party, however, they do not have the financial expertise to testify as to the value of a company, tax effects of income, gross income versus net income, or anything other than their first-hand knowledge of expenses.  While, these are just simple examples, there truly are a variety of issues in family law that even if common sense should be enough to prevail, simply is not and therefore these matters do in fact require the expertise of an individual who has the education and experience in that area so as to qualify as an “expert”.   These experts essentially gather the information relied upon in their field of expertise and provide a report as well as testimony (if necessary) and can provide the Court with the scientific or other specialized knowledge to prove those facts in dispute.

In general, in matters involving contested custody issues, a psychologist is retained or appointed by the Court and they generally meet with both parents, the children involved, and they reach out to what is called our “collateral” sources such as the children’s pediatrician, school personnel, therapists involved with the parties and/or children, and even family members.  They perform psychological testing designed to evaluate the personality styles of the parents and they provide a comprehensive recommendation based upon their investigation, interviews, the testing results, review of the records, and the children’s best interests.

In matters involving financial issues, such as issues with self-employment income, ownership of a company, valuations of a business, or valuation of assets overall, divorce lawyers will employ the services of a forensic accountant.  Forensic accounts will review the financial information relevant to the disputed issues (or issues which simply require that expertise because neither party is qualified to render a value), and they render an opinion or give insight to the attorneys and/or the Court if needed.

In the end, experts can be a very expensive aspect of divorce litigation and therefore it requires a careful analysis based upon the truly disputed issues as to whether or not there is a benefit to retaining same. Kelli Martone, Esq. of the Martone Law Group, LLC  has significant experience in working with a variety of experts involved in family law litigation and can advise you in a manner which considers your financial ability and overall concerns. If you have a divorce matter involving significant issues of custody and/or financial concerns, contact Kelli Martone, Esq. of the Martone Law Group, LLC at 856-617-6700 today to schedule your consultation.