The Many Roles Experts Play in a Divorce

February 13, 2014 | Category: Custody, Divorce, Property Division, Spousal Maintenance

A divorce doesn’t just involve the two spouses and their lawyers. In any divorce proceeding, there are a variety of legal factors involved.  The more issues present, the more experts will generally need to be involved. Some of the typical roles in a divorce include a home appraiser, custody evaluator, vocational assessor, business appraiser, and an actuary.

The number of experts present will obviously increase the overall cost of the divorce, but they will also ensure that the proceedings are as fair as possible.

A home appraiser is the most common role in the divorce process. In many marriages, the most valuable asset that needs to be divided is the homestead.  Whether one person is choosing to stay in the home, or if the parties are choosing to sell it, the value and equity of the home will play a factor in the final property settlement.

In order to make an accurate determination, it is necessary to have the home appraised by a professional who will determine the fair market value of the property. A home appraisal can sometimes be replaced by a realtor’s market analysis, but this does not provide the same substantial evidence. Therefore, if the divorcing couple owns a home, it is recommended to use a home appraiser for the most accurate evaluation possible. The typical cost of a home appraisal is between $300 and $400.

A custody evaluator will typically be appointed by the court if your divorce involves contested custody. The parties may also elect to use a private custody evaluator instead. The evaluator’s job is to gather the evidence and information to make the determination of custody. At the conclusion of the investigation, the custody evaluator will make a recommendation regarding custody.

This recommendation is not a final ruling, but the courts often adopt the evaluator’s recommendations. Court-appointed custody evaluations can take several months while the evaluator meets with each party, both alone and in the presence of the children. A private evaluation is usually quicker, but it will cost a lot more. Private custody evaluation can cost upwards of $10,000.

If the divorce deals with spousal maintenance, then a vocational assessor will usually play a role in the process. A vocational assessor’s job is to evaluate the employment capacity of each spouse. This means that the assessor will look at the skills, education, and experience of each spouse in order to determine what type of employment and salary is likely available for each spouse.

The vocational assessor’s report will be viewed by the courts as significant evidence for determining spousal maintenance. The typical vocational assessment costs around $1500.

If either party involved in the divorce owns a business, then a business appraiser will need to be involved. A business appraiser’s role is to determine the market value of the business by looking at revenue, profits, assets, and growth potential. A business evaluation typically costs between $5000 and $10,000, and will serve as evidence that will be taken into account when property and assets are divided.

An actuary is another common role in the divorce process. The actuary will closely evaluate the other assets that a couple owns, including retirement accounts and pension interest. Some of these accounts are easy to value, while others take complex formulas to determine exactly what they are worth and what is eligible for division.

Depending on the issues involved in the divorce, there may be other experts present in the process. Vehicle appraisers, accountants, chemical abuse experts, and psychological experts may also play a role. As you can see, the costs of a divorce can add up quickly. These evaluations are expensive, but they are necessary for making sure that there is equitable division in the final ruling.

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