What is Expert Testimony And When Does it Matter?
Every divorce is not necessarily complex or severely contested. If both parties are largely agreeable on the pivotal issues, your divorce attorney will be able to ensure the divorce proceedings are concluded swiftly while making sure your interests are protected at every step.
However, some divorces can involve thorny issues, such as child custody battles, or serious disagreements overvaluation of assets and debts, child support, and spousal support. Where it becomes difficult to arrive at amicable solutions, your family law attorney may suggest the strategic involvement of an external expert witness to substantiate your case.
Who can Provide Expert Testimony?
Expert testimony in a divorce case may be provided by a professional with specialized knowledge, training or experience in a particular subject matter. The court will allow this expert to testify in the court after reviewing their professional credentials and other factors surrounding the case. The expert witness will have the authority to present their professional opinion rather than merely reporting the facts.
The role of the expert witness will be limited to a specific aspect of your divorce or family law matter. The expert testimony is not going to relate to the overall merits of the case, and it will not include any suggestions regarding how the divorce matters should be decided. The testimony will only include questions from attorneys about the expert’s area of specialization.
For example, a child psychology expert who is called to give an opinion on custody or visitation issues will not be questioned on how the marital property should be divided in the case. Your attorney should be able to help you connect with expert witnesses who can pass the judge’s scrutiny with regard to their qualifications. Expert testimony cannot be used without the judge’s acceptance of the witness.
Forensic accountants or CPAs are commonly involved in divorce cases to provide expert testimony. They can assist with the preparation of accurate disclosures of assets and debts and income and expenditures. They can compute or verify child support and alimony calculations, provide an objective financial analysis on your standard of living during the marriage (which will help in determining a fair amount of spousal support).
In high net worth divorce cases, forensic accounts are particularly useful because they can track hidden assets and help you protect your financial interests through a fair property division. In addition to providing expert testimony, accountants, or CPAs can also provide you valuable advice on your taxation, financial planning, and debt management in a divorce.
Asset Appraisal Experts
Property division is one of the major issues in many divorce cases in Orange County. If multiple or complex financial assets are involved, it may be important to use expert testimony to determine the correct valuation of these assets. For instance, valuation of a house and real estate, stock options, offshore assets, high-value jewelry, and works of art may require an appraiser’s expert testimony.
If marital business assets are involved, you may need an expert witness specializing in business appraisals who can help you fairly divide the business assets and liabilities. Business assets such as accounts receivables, goodwill, and intellectual property can be particularly difficult to value without the involvement of a business appraiser. This expert witness may eventually have to testify in court to support your argument about the total business value.
Child Custody Experts
Child custody battles often require expert testimony for a fair resolution. California family courts will decide child custody and visitation matters while keeping the child’s best interests at the center. For instance, you want to tell the court that the other parent is mentally unfit to care for the child, you may need to have a qualified mental health professional testify in court about their medical opinion and conclusions after a thorough evaluation.
In another situation, if your child has some special needs, you may have to convince the court by bringing professional caregivers who can testify to the child’s specific needs or condition. For determining the child’s best interests, expert testimony is sometimes required from psychologists or social workers with expertise in that area.
Best interest standards are applied in numerous situations, such as parenting plans, child relocation, and child support, apart from the child’s physical and legal custody. Therefore, expert testimonies can make a key difference to which way the judge decides a particular issue.
If the child’s medical condition is an area of concern, expert testimony from a pediatrician may be required to resolve custody and child support disputes. Even in cases of child abuse, expert testimony from medical experts may be necessary. Specialists in a particular field of medicine may be brought in for expert testimony where the child’s physical or mental health and well-being need to be determined.
Family courts in the past have also relied on expert witness testimony from medical specialists in the field of neurology, general surgery, orthopedics, and emergency medicine. These expert witnesses can evaluate certain elements related to the child’s well-being or identify issues such as possible child abuse.
Work with a Divorce Lawyer who Understands Expert Testimony
Expert testimony can sometimes change the entire course of the divorce case, which can have a lifetime of consequences for you. An expert witness has the potential to provide critical insights to the judge, which may convince them to decide matters either in your or the other party’s favor.
You need a seasoned family attorney in Orange County who is knowledgeable and resourceful enough to leverage the power of expert testimony where it can possibly alter the course of your divorce in your favor.