What Does An Expert Witness Do In A Divorce?

When watching television or a movie with a legal case, you may have seen an attorney call on an “expert witness.”

What is an expert witness? What does an expert witness do in a divorce?

An expert witness is a person who has specialized knowledge about an issue. An expert witness can be anyone with knowledge about a specific issue or subject. Typically, the expert witness has years of experience or education about the issue or subject. There are experts in just about every human endeavor and subject area.

An expert is there to help the Court better understand a specific issue. Hopefully, the expert can explain a complex issue in easy to understand language. This helps the Judge, and if there is a jury, the jury understand that issue.

There are two types of expert witnesses: (i) a Neutral Expert Witness; and (ii) an Independently Hired Expert Witness.

A Neutral Expert Witness is typically appointed by the Court to give an opinion on a particular issue. In a divorce, a Court may appoint the following Neutral Experts:

  • A real estate appraiser – to appraise the value of a house, vacant lots, or any other type of property
  • A retirement valuation firm – to provide a valuation of the parties’ retirement funds and also to draft a Domestic Relation Order to distribute those funds
  • A forensic accountant – to provide a valuation of a business
  • A forensic psychologist – to provide an opinion on child custody issues
  • A jewelry appraiser – to appraise the value of jewelry

The Court will also determine how the neutral expert is paid, typically, the parties will equally share the cost of a neutral expert. However, in situations where one party earns much more than the other party, the wealthy spouse may have to pay all or most of the neutral expert’s fees.

An Independently Hired Expert Witness is where a party directly hires their own expert witness to provide an opinion at trial. In those instances, typically, both parties hire their own separate expert witnesses. When both parties have their own independent expert witnesses, you have what is commonly called a “battle of experts”. The Court can choose to follow one expert’s opinion, neither expert’s opinion, or a combination of both expert’s opinions.

In most divorces, it is very rare for the parties to hire their own independently hired expert witnesses. This is because it can be very expensive to do so, in addition, the Court would rather that a neutral expert be retained to limit the time it takes for expert witness testimony.

Experts are not just used at trial, especially in divorce cases. Usually, an expert will issue a written report prior to a trial, and in many cases, early in a divorce matter. The expert will help the parties understand the issues and the value of the parties’ home, retirement assets or other assets. The parties can use that knowledge to help them reach a settlement before the case goes to trial.

If you are thinking of getting divorced and need a divorce attorney on Long Island, NY, please contact David Badanes at Badanes Law Office. Mr. Badanes has represented hundreds of clients in their divorce. Mr. Badanes will help you in either finding an expert witness or in interpreting the expert witnesses’ report. Call today at 631-239-1702, email at david@dbnylaw.com.

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