Divorce Without Disaster - Use of Expert Testimony

This is the 11th of a serialization of Janet P. Brumley's book, Divorce Without Disaster. This post is Chapter 2, part 3 of the book. 

Frequently in divorce, the parties need help from outside experts. The parties may disagree over the fair market value of their residence and need an appraiser to determine that value. Or they may disagree on a child's medication and need the advice of a pediatrician. In more complicated divorces, there may be questions of tracing separate property, valuing the couple's interest in a trust or determining the value of a business. In each instance, the attorney for each party in a litigation divorce hires an expert to give his or her opinion to the court in the final trial. These experts realize they have been hired by one interested party and, therefore, may give an opinion that benefits that party.

This nefarious lack of integrity is not universal, but it does occur. Most lawyers who practice family law know the local experts who cannot be bought and will give their honest, professional opinion without bias. These are the experts hired in collaborative law cases. Unlike the two-expert duel in litigation, in collaborative law the parties and attorneys agree on one expert and pay the expert from the community estate.

"It's a lot easier to appraise a property, and get all the important variables that are involved, when both sides are in agreement with you being there," says real estate appraiser D.W. Skelton.

"When you're hired by only one side, the other side sometimes thinks you're going to give a higher or lower valuation based on what your side wants. They're constantly worried about that, and they may make it difficult for the appraiser to get into the home to do what he needs to do, such as take photographs or make notes. If the parties are civil to each other, no matter what type of divorce it is, you don't run into any of that."

This also applies to the mental-health experts often called on during a divorce process.

"With collaborative law, I'm hired by both attorneys, so it's clear that I have the best interest of the relationship and the family in mind," says therapist Patrick Savage.

"Since there's no other therapist involved, I'm able to render an opinion that both attorneys will honor, since it's not about winning or losing; it's about what's in their clients' best interest."

Janet P. Brumley

Prior posts:

Divorce Without Disaster - Collaborative Law - About the Author
Divorce Without Disaster - Collaborative Law - Introduction
Divorce Without Disaster - What Is Collaborative Law and Why Use It?
Divorce Without Disaster - Choices of How to End the Marriage
Divorce Without Disaster - A Closer Look at Collaborative Law
Divorce Without Disaster - Collaborative Law Can Save Everything
Divorce Without Disaster - Human Behavior Key to Collaborative Law
Divorce Without Disaster - What Makes Collaborative Law Different from Litigation?
Divorce Without Disaster - More on Communication

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