The vast majority of cases now end in settlement. Most parties understand that being able to craft their own agreement tailor-made for their case is highly preferable to allowing a judge to make important life decisions on their behalf. This is especially true in family law cases, as the issues at hand will impact life on a daily basis, perhaps for the rest of their life and that of their children. When an agreement cannot be reached, parties to a divorce or child custody case will need to present evidence to a judge to support their respective positions concerning spousal maintenance, property division, and child custody. This evidence will often include witness testimony, and in some cases an expert witness may be necessary. An expert witness is a witness who has special training and experience that makes him or her an expert in a particular field. There are several types of issues in a divorce case that may make an expert witness necessary.
One very common reason for an expert witness is asset valuation. Some assets are simple and straightforward to value, such as small items of personal property. However, some larger assets have complicated issues. The best example of this is a business. Businesses have many different types of assets and liabilities ranging from mortgages to community “goodwill” to accounts receivable. Setting a value to a family business is not as simple as subtracting the debt owed from the value of the inventory, and parties often need an expert to value the business and ultimately testify at trial to support their opinion of the value.
Experts are also often necessary in child custody disputes. Child custody and parenting time decisions are made based on what is in a child’s best interest. If there is an allegation that, for example, one of the parents is mentally unstable and unfit to parent, they will need a mental health professional to perform an evaluation and testify to the results and conclusions at trial. Similarly, if a child has special medical needs, it may be necessary to have the care providers testify to the child’s condition and requirements.
Finally, a party may need his or her own physicians or care providers to testify on their behalf, in some cases. If someone is unable to work by virtue of a physical disability and their spouse disputes this fact, they may need their own doctor or a third party neutral physician to provide expert testimony as to their abilities. This could be important for both spousal maintenance and child support issues.
We have helped many clients make the right strategic decisions to properly present their case to the judge. Contact us today at (651) 371-9117 to talk about the witnesses you may need.