Using Experts In Family Law Practice
In Family Law, we often need to use experts to help with the process. An expert is someone with specific and in-depth knowledge of a particular subject matter who gets brought into the process to advise on the matter in which they are experts. They are used because there may be complex assets or implications on decisions that are not obvious to the layperson. Experts are used in the mediation and collaborative processes where the parties want some guidance on the subject. Experts are also used in court to advise the judge during a trial. In family law proceedings, the following are the most commonly used experts.
There are three types of experts used for custody matters. The legal standard is “the best interest of the child,” which is always complicated when a family is changing form. These experts assist by providing information to help determine what is in the best interests of the child.
Custodial evaluators meet with the parties and the children and confer with doctors, teachers, and others, to get a more complete picture of the child’s situation. The evaluators then help the parents and the court, if it is a litigation, figure out the best custodial schedule after a separation/divorce to provide the best adjustment and mental, physical, emotional, and intellectual growth of the child.
Therapists are used when there are concerns about the wellbeing of the child, either due to the changing family structure or for other reasons. The therapist is called in to inform the parties and, if it is a litigation, the trier of fact of their opinions of the child’s needs, concerns and state of mind, to help the parties and/or trier of fact determine the best interests of the child.
Medical professionals are used when a child is being treated ongoingly. Medical professional can be called in to opine on needs of the child, what must be done to meet those needs, and the role of each party in attending to the child.
There are a variety of experts who may be used by the parties in a mediation, collaborative divorce, or litigation, to assure that the division of the estate is fair and that spousal support is consistent with the need and ability to pay.
Real Estate Appraisers whose expertise helps establish the fair market value of the real property. They inspect the property and come up with valuation and may suggest work to be done to maximize the value. If litigation, this expert is required. If in the collaborative process or mediation, the parties may use comparables from various sources to agree on a value or as a basis to agree on a value.
Personal Property Appraisers look at higher value personal property such as jewelry, fine art and furniture to determine their value for purposes of dividing the estate when the parties cannot agree.
Accountants help determine the income available for spousal support and other issues, particularly where there is a small business, tax complexities or fluctuating income.
Business Valuators have particular expertise in looking at closely held businesses, employing techniques to put a value on intangibles like “good will” which can be critical to determining the marital share of the small business.
Mortgage Experts will help the court and the parties determine the feasibility and cost of a refinance or how to manage the payoff of a mortgage
Vocational Evaluators look at each party’s ability to earn in order to determine the income potential relevant to support claims.
The role of the expert is to provide a supported opinion to the court and the parties. In a contested family law matter before a judge, one expert may testify in support of the position held by a party, while the other party has their own expert. In the collaborative process, the parties agree on one expert to provide an opinion to help guide them to the best outcome.
A good Family Law practitioner will have relationships with numerous experts in the various fields and be able to advise clients on the best person to hire for the particular circumstances of the parties. Want to know more about using experts in a family law matter? Contact us here to set up a consultation.
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