Cost-Benefit Analysis of Experts in the Divorce Process

Hi there,

From start to finish there is no question that divorce is expensive. Sometimes it is a juggling act; do you spend the money for  the expensive expert or do you agree on a shared one? Or do you skip an expert altogether (which can be dangerous)? The most commonly needed experts, outside of parenting matters, are residential real estate appraisers, business valuation experts, commercial real estate appraisers, defined benefit pension valuation experts, and forensic accountants.

If money is tight – and no matter how much you have, money is tight when you are in the process of divorcing – maybe you can share the costs of a joint expert. This is often a plausible idea for residential real estate because there is a common sense way to reality-check the results. Most folks have a reasonable idea of their residential real estate values, thanks to Zillow.com and your town assessor’s office.

It also makes economic sense to share the cost of the actuary doing the defined benefit pension valuation. There generally will be some form of information from the pension provider which also will provide a good reality check.

But, if it is at all possible, you should have your own expert to value a closely held business. Business valuations are complex and the reality check often comes in the comparisons of  2 competing valuations. This is also true of commercial real estate of any significance. The way to save money here is to, before hiring them, make sure your expert is willing to sit down with the expert for your spouse and try to reach an agreement on the values. If the appraisals come in too far apart to compromise the number then the experts need to sit down and discuss their assumptions and methodology. The good ones can generally work things out if they are allowed to. This is something the court will encourage you to do as well. At the very least this will save you the costs of prepping the expert for trial and prepping for the cross of the other expert, and at a minimum it will save a day of trial costs too.

Obviously, if you need the services of a forensic accountant, this is not something that you can share with the other side. This need arises when the disclosed income or expenses of your spouse do not match what you believe the reality is. Often it arises in a cash business, and this can be tricky as there may be tax implications and concerns that arise from undisclosed income. It is critical to quantify the amount of income or assets you believe are hidden before you hire the accountant. The cost of doing a forensic analysis can be extremely high.

In any case, be sure to discuss with your attorneys the cost-benefit analysis of your needs and options for experts – before an expert is hired.

Best,

Nancy