Why Hire an Expert for Child Support or Divorce Litigation?

July 19, 2011 | Divorce, Legal Perspective

Icon for author Brian Vertz Brian Vertz

From my experience as a matrimonial lawyer, I can easily understand my clients’ perspective on legal and professional fees.  They want to spend as little as possible, and that is what I want for them. The more efficiently we can settle or litigate their divorce, the more money they will have to support themselves and their families. Not surprisingly, some clients are reluctant to incur the expense of hiring expert witnesses, such as real estate appraisers, forensic accountants, vocational evaluators and valuation experts. Yet, hiring an expert makes good sense if it will increase the chances of obtaining a favorable settlement or judgment: a larger share of marital property, a more accurate valuation, or a better child support or alimony order. Working hand in hand with my clients, our shared goal is to preserve their net worth and cash flow. Hiring an expert can be a good investment that does, in many cases, justify the expense.

In court, expert witnesses have certain advantages over lawyers and their clients: (1) they have expertise in a field or specialty that the client, lawyers, and judge may not have; and more importantly, (2) they can express opinions and the foundation on which their opinions are based, including hearsay. Unlike other witnesses, who cannot repeat out of court statements made by others, expert opinions are permitted to discuss their investigation of facts (including hearsay) and the result of scientific or specialized analysis or testing. Their special status in court allows expert witnesses to “connect the dots” between information from different sources, and to guide the judge in understanding its meaning. For instance, a vocational expert can testify about the employee’s qualifications, the relevant employment statistics, and how the employee fits into the job market. Even though the expert is a paid witness, most experts are viewed by the courts as objective witnesses. Without an expert, most clients could not offer sufficient evidence about certain subjects, like valuation, because some of the testimony necessarily would be hearsay. Expert witnesses can synthesize information, form opinions, and testify about them. In divorce settlements and litigation, that is the value that expert witnesses bring.


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