In “My Cousin Vinny,” arguably one of the best movies of all time, the character Mona Lisa Vito, played by Marisa Tomei, testifies as an automotive expert in a criminal case and provides an opinion about an automotive issue (positraction) that wins the case and results in the acquittal of two young men charged with murder. Experts are often necessary in litigation to provide professional opinions on complex issues in a wide range of cases. In any family law case, one of the strategic decisions a client must make with their attorney at the outset is whether to hire an expert. The following are some of the experts that parties to a family law case should consider hiring depending upon the issues in your family law case:
- Forensic accountant: Investigates whether a party has hidden assets and income, traces parties’ assets to nonmarital sources such as premarital assets, inheritance or gifts, or rebuts claims by the opposing party that certain property is nonmarital or marital.
- Business evaluation expert: Determines the economic value of a business owned by one of the parties in a divorce case so that the Court can consider the value of the business in the distribution of marital property.
- Real estate appraiser: Determines the value of the marital home, vacation homes, commercial properties owned by the parties, and any other real property that may be subject to distribution.
- Custody evaluator: Makes recommendations as to legal and physical custody of children after interviewing the parties, third parties, and the children, observing the parties and children, reviewing relevant documents, and in some cases performing psychological testing.
- Vocational expert: In cases involving claims for alimony, testifies as to the ability of a party to obtain and maintain employment and the amount of income the party is capable of earning.
- Attorneys’ fees expert: A lawyer who has substantial experience practicing family law and opines as to the reasonableness of attorneys’ fees incurred by the parties for the purpose of obtaining an award of attorneys’ fees or opposing a claim for attorneys’ fees.
Courts often impose deadlines for the designation of experts early in the case. Failure to designate an expert by the court-ordered deadline can result in a party not being permitted to have an expert testify. An expert will explain complex issues to the Court in the presentation of your case and can rebut the opinions of experts hired by the opposing party. An expert can also provide valuable advice during the discovery process, preparation for trial, and settlement negotiations. That is why it is so important to retain an expert in accordance with the court’s deadline and have the expert begin working on the case. It also helps to have an attorney who knows the expert, has worked with the expert in the past and is confident that the expert will provide compelling testimony and opinions that will be accepted by the court at trial.
ABOUT MARSHALL YAAP
firstname.lastname@example.org | 240.507.1754
Marshall Yaap represents clients in domestic and international family law matters. His practice focuses on child custody, child support, divorce, property division, alimony, domestic violence cases, and marital and premarital contracts. Before entering private practice, Marshall served as a judicial law clerk at the Superior Court of the District of Columbia for retired Judge Odessa F. Vincent, Magistrate Judge Errol R. Arthur, and retired Magistrate Judge S. Pamela Gray. Prior to law school, Marshall worked for daily newspapers as a reporter and editor.
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