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Use of Expert Witnesses in Complex Divorce Cases

DFields@fishbeinpa.com,   Family Law   Leave a Comment

In preparing for a complex divorce case one must consider the range of potential expert witnesses who may be required in order to prove your case. These expert witnesses include the following:

  1. Physicians. Many cases involve questions of medical conditions which may impede a person’s ability to work or a persons’s ability to earn an income commensurate with what has previously been the person’s earning capacity and to pay child support or alimony. There are a wide variety of medical experts who may be called upon including orthopedic surgeons, neurosurgeons, neurologists, endocrinologists and many other sub-specialties. These witnesses need to have examined the party for whom they are expressing an opinion and they need to be familiar with all of the medical records of the person of whom they are expressing an opinion.
  2. Mental Health Professionals. In many cases, especially involving children, there is a need for psychiatrist and psychologist to express opinions as to a party’s fitness for parenting and/or particular problems that a child may suffer from. These professionals may also be called upon in the event of child abuse or other child related issues. A neuro- psychologist may be called upon as an expert witness in the event that there are specialized psychological testing issues which need to be addressed for the court’s benefit. In addition on some occasions psychologists are called upon to perform custody evaluations and express options based on their investigation of the parties and the children involved.
  3. In some cases it is appropriate to hire professionals in drug or alcohol addictions and/or a toxicologist to express opinions about alcohol and/or drug abuse and the treatment needs required for a party or a child.
  4. Vocational Experts. In many divorce cases it is necessary to establish a person’s ability to work notwithstanding the fact that they may not be currently employed or may be under employed. Vocational experts can administer tests and conduct investigations as to the market and range of expected income for the type of job skills that the person possesses.
  5. Business Valuation Expert Witnesses. In cases involving closely held corporations frequently business valuation experts are employed who can express an opinion as to the fair market value of the business that is owned by the parties or one of the parties in his or her own name so that the court can do an equitable distribution of the parties property including the business.
  6. Accountants & CPAs. Frequently there are issues in complex divorce cases of what the real income of the parties is and questions regarding income which is paid for by a family owned business for the owner of the business. Accountants are also called upon to do forensic works to look for hidden assets.

    Frequently in contested divorce cases Certified Public Accountants are called upon to express opinions as to the parties’ financial assets and to value family owned business. They frequently work in conjunction with the business valuation experts.

  7. Educational Experts. In some cases an educational expert may be called upon to express a need for private schooling and/or tutoring for a child who has educational difficulties, emotional difficulties and/or a child who suffers from cognitive impairments.
  8. Appraisers. In many divorce cases a real estate appraiser is necessary for residential and/or commercial property to value the real estate and often personal property appraisers are needed to value art, antiques, valuable furniture, collector automobiles, boats and other valuable personal property assets.
  9. Detectives. Detectives are used frequently in contested divorce cases to establish grounds for divorce most commonly adultery. In addition detectives may be used to explore hidden assets and other issues as they arise in a contested divorce case.
  10. Annuitist. In some contested divorce cases an annuitist serves the useful purpose of showing what the present value of an amount of money ordered by the court is as contrasted with a payment of money over time.
  11. Computer Forensics. In some contested divorce cases a computer forensic expert is used when there are files that have been deleted from a computer or information has been hidden from one of the parties.
  12. Document Examiners. Document examiners are used in some contested divorce cases where there is a question as to the validity of a document or where there is a question as to the validity of a signature on a document.
  13. Life Care Planners. In certain contested divorce cases there are disputed issues as to a person’s care expenses particularly those persons that are handicapped or seriously injured. A life care planner may be used to establish what the costs for a life care plan for disabled or seriously injured individual would be over their life expectancy. They are often used in conjunction with either annuitist or economist who can express an opinion as to the present value of an income stream over time.
  14. Property Inspectors. On some occasions when there are questions about real estate which may be depressed because of certain conditions, a home and/or commercial inspector is used to explain the work that must be done to bring a property up to its full market value.
  15. Attorney’s fees. In many contested divorce cases there are disputes as to the amount of attorney’s fees that one party or the other is seeking. Frequently other attorneys are called upon to express an opinion as to the fairness and reasonableness of the fee and the necessity of the work that was done.

Thus in a contested divorce case there are a wide variety of potential expert witnesses who may be called upon to express opinions in order to bolster a party’s case. It is important to secure the expert witness well in advance of trial so that their opinions can be documented and disclosed to the other party on a timely basis as dictated by the Scheduling Order in the case.

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