If you find yourself in the middle of a contested divorce and the stakes are high, you may need more assistance than your attorney can provide. With an eye toward preparing your case for trial or simply aiding in the settlement process, several categories of experts can be utilized to bolster your position and create compelling evidence in your favor.
These experts are typically experienced as trial witnesses, and the best ones come armed with CVs that add weight to their testimony and shield them from withering cross-examination. Experts can also prepare reports for use as evidence in court or as tools to bring the parties closer to settlement.
You should consider whether hiring any of the following six types of experts would be a worthwhile investment of time and money in your ongoing divorce:
Business Evaluator: This expert can be critical in cases where one or both parties own a business, and there is a disagreement as to its value. When one party wishes to maintain a marital business after divorce, free and clear of any claim from the other, a buyout may become necessary. A business evaluator can review the books, profit-and-loss worksheets, inventory, assets, etc. and determine a fair market value, along with a figure for “personal goodwill,” which may very well be considered a separate property interest. Your attorney can assist the business evaluator by issuing interrogatories, requests for production of documents, subpoenas, etc. to gather the necessary information and documentation to gain a complete snapshot of the business’ activities.
Vocational Rehabilitation Analyst: Depending on your jurisdiction in Virginia, in order to impute income to your spouse (i.e. to argue that they are capable of earning more than they are currently receiving, for purposes of calculating support), you may need to hire a vocational rehabilitation analyst. This expert will interview the opposing party and prepare a report considering such factors as their prior work experience, prior income, educational level and certifications, how long the spouse has been out of the workforce, the local economy and job market, and available positions. This report can form the basis of testimony at trial, or the jumping-off point for negotiations relating to a support amount and duration.
Custody/Mental Health Evaluator: Occasionally, in complex custody and visitation cases, either party or a judge may request that a therapist or psychologist evaluate the family to determine what arrangement would be in the best interests of the children. Depending upon the circumstances, this may or may not include a mental health evaluation of the parties and/or children. The cost of these evaluations is typically assigned to the party who has requested the other party to be evaluated, but is also frequently distributed on a pro rata basis in proportion to each party’s income. The resulting report and/or testimony often carries critical weight bearing on the outcome.
Real Estate Appraiser: The marital home is often the most valuable asset that any couple owns, and frequently the most complex issue to address during a divorce. Whether obtaining an agreed-upon value for one party to buy out the other, or utilizing competing valuations at trial, a real estate appraiser is probably the most commonly hired expert in divorce cases. They can also run different evaluations based upon the potential for real estate income generation as a rental property.
Handwriting Analyst: Is your signature on that tax return, but you’ve never seen it before? Was your signature forged on a home equity line that is now affecting your credit? A handwriting analyst can review these documents, along with comparison samples, to determine their authenticity or evidence of forgery. These experts literally put your documents under the microscope, searching for evidence of signature tracing, hesitation marks, etc. Their report and testimony can be critical to your case outcome.
Private Investigator: The P.I. is the classic expert witness in a divorce proceeding. In Virginia, a showing of adultery is an absolute bar to awarding alimony, with some complex but important exceptions. Thus, private investigators can earn their money and more if they gather the evidence necessary to persuade a judge of marital misconduct. They can conduct an investigation (sometimes over a period of months), prepare a report and testify as to their findings in court, sometimes with visual aids that will make your spouse squirm in his or her seat.
Livesay & Myers, P.C. has a team of experienced divorce lawyers in Fairfax, Manassas, Ashburn and Fredericksburg, Virginia. If you are facing a contested divorce in Northern Virginia, contact us to schedule a consultation today.