Is an expert witness necessary?

The circumstances of every family law dispute are different. Some are low impact where the two sides see eye to eye on all the important areas. Others involve litigation where expert witnesses are helpful or necessary for providing insight on an issue, such as a business valuation or contentious custody situation.

Generally speaking, expert witnesses are called upon to help a family court judge sort through claims and assertions in a dispute. These experts will have specialized knowledge and use that knowledge to offer an informed opinion. It's worth noting that they are often highly influential in the outcome of a dispute.

Common expert witnesses in divorce

There are specific state and federal rules about who can provide expert witness testimony. Some common expert witness examples include:

Financial experts: A forensic accountant can be a tremendous asset if there are concerns that one party is trying to hide assets, which impacts the division of assets or amount of support paid.

Child therapist or psychologists: These experts evaluate the children and then provide insights into the home life and behavior, particularly when there are allegations of abuse.

Property and real estate: These experts provide insight into the market value of real property or less common areas like collections, antiques or art.

Vocational experts: These experts are used to determine how much a spouse earns, should earn or would have earned if one of them gave up a promising career to raise a family.

When to use them

Experts can be extremely useful, but there are pros and cons to using them. They can be expensive, so the issue in dispute should be of great importance or involve larger amounts of money. It's also worth noting that each side may engage in using experts who may disagree on a valuation or solution.

Clients should discuss the possibility or necessity of expert witnesses when they consult with their attorney. Knowledgeable family law attorneys often work with experts and understand when the best time is to use them.

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Keith B. Schulefand, Esq.
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