When to Hire an Expert Witness

by Jan 7, 2022Divorce, Legal advice

You have seen expert witnesses testify in televised, high-profile criminal trials. But did you know you might need an expert witness to testify at your divorce trial?

Why would I need an expert?

Courts like facts and evidence. Opinions, especially those of laypeople, don’t hold much sway with a judge. Unless you are an expert in a relevant field, what you believe your property, assets, or business to be worth won’t mean anything unless you can prove it. That’s where an expert witness comes in.

Commonly used experts

Not every divorce will need an expert witness to weigh in. But if you have a complex financial situation, own a lot of real estate, or you have an inheritance or otherwise separate property, an expert witness can help. Some of the most common types of expert witnesses you may see in a divorce include:

  • Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) – CPAs are vital in helping you trace funds, like an inheritance, which may have been separate property but became comingled with marital assets. Comingling the funds doesn’t mean you will lose your claim to separate property, but it may take a CPA to trace those funds to establish separateness. Forensic Accountants are especially skilled at this.
  • Certified Real Estate Appraisers – A real estate appraiser can produce data-driven statistics to help show the value of real estate, how it has changed over time, and what it might have been worth at any specific point in time in question. An example would be a home owned by one party before the marriage that becomes the marital home and is maintained with marital funds. A certified appraiser could determine the value of that home at the time it became a marital asset.
  • Title Attorneys – If you and/or your spouse own a lot of real estate, it is sometimes necessary to call in a title attorney to help pinpoint purchase dates, sales prices, and so on.
  • Mental Health Experts – Some child custody disputes arise because one parent believes the other may pose a detriment or danger to the children. Child psychologists or even school counselors may be called upon to present fact-based evidence regarding behavior they have witnessed, or professional opinions based upon sessions with the child.

How do I find a qualified expert?

Don’t worry, your attorney will be able to recommend an expert and reach out to them on your behalf. Once the relationship has been established, you may have a lot of communication with them, but rest assured that your family law attorney will know experts in each field and can help you select one to get the ball rolling.

Will the expert testify in court?

Not usually, although it is possible. In general, their written testimony is enough to be entered on your behalf. They will provide a report documenting how they reached their conclusion and state their expert opinion on the subject matter.

How much will this cost?

Most expert witnesses will charge an hourly rate, and the number of hours will depend on how complicated your situation is. It’s impossible to estimate the cost of an expert witness, but in the end, it could be a fraction of what they might be able to save you.

Why can’t my attorney do this?

Lawyers are experts in the law. Just because an expert divorce attorney may have handled hundreds of divorce cases, it doesn’t make them an expert at tracing money or estimating home values. An experienced family law attorney will advise you as to whether you would benefit by hiring an expert, and they can even introduce you to one, but lawyers are not CPAs or appraisers. Just like you wouldn’t hire a realtor to handle your divorce, you wouldn’t hire a divorce lawyer to appraise your home.

Schedule your free consultation!

Have questions about what a divorce might mean for you and your financial situation? Come talk to one of the experienced divorce lawyers at Kirkland & Sommers and get your questions answered, free of charge. We’ll listen to you, learn the specifics of your situation, and discuss the various scenarios that apply to you. Together, we can create a game plan to ensure you get a fair settlement, and we’ll be beside you, every step of the way. With more than 100+ years of combined experience, the professional family law attorneys at Kirkland & Sommers are ready to serve all your family law needs. Call us today or click below!