Every divorce is as unique as the people involved. Some will be business-like with few areas of disagreement, while others will be highly emotional and litigated in court. In the latter case, expert witnesses are useful for providing insight when the spouses have differing views on an issue. This may be the fitness of a parent, the worth of an ongoing business, real property or earning potential.
There are guidelines at the state and federal level about the qualification of an expert witness. Generally speaking, they are there to use their specialized knowledge to provide expert insight and analysis to the judge, or to strengthen one side’s argument during pre-trial discovery. Either way, they can be very influential in the outcome of a case.
Typical expert witnesses in divorce disputes
While expert witnesses are often called upon for personal injury or criminal law cases, they are also used regularly in family law. Common examples are:
Financial experts: A forensic accountant can investigate a spouse’s finances if there is a suspicion that they are hiding assets. Experts can render an opinion on the worth of a business entity that may be subject to division at divorce.
Property Appraisers and real estate experts: These provide insight into the value of real property, and personal property such as jewelry, art, guns, collectibles or other assets.
Vocational experts: These provide analysis about the market value of a career, such as when a spouse gives up a promising career to raise a family. They can identify areas to explore if unemployed and can make recommendations when someone is underemployed as well.
Child psychologists or therapists: These evaluate the well-being of a child and provide insight into the home life, especially if there are allegations of abuse or questions about the fitness of a parent to raise a family.
Do you need an expert witness?
An experienced family law attorney can evaluate a case and discuss the option of using an expert witness. While they can be an asset, these professionals are often expensive, so a client and their lawyer will need to weigh the net gain of using an expert witness versus focusing on other priorities, perhaps with other experts.