Early on in a case, the lawyer and client will have to determine what experts will be necesary to resolve a case either for settlement or trial. In fact, at the first Case Management Conference, the uniform Case Management Order requires that you identify the types of experts you need and how they are going to be paid for.
What is an expert and why do we need them? Per the Rules of Evidence, "If scientific, technical or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise." Simply put, an expert is a tool to help determine a fact. Experts provide information that the parties cannot generally provide themselves.
What kind of experts are used in these cases? The following are some examples:
- Forensic accountants to value busineses, determine actual income, trace income and assets (including tracing premarital assets), to provide lifestyle analysis, to provide cash flow reports based upon proposed alimony and child support scenarios and a variety of other financial related issues,
- Business valuation experts (sometimes they are not accountants)
- Experts to value stock options or other exployee benefits – often but not always accountants
- custody evaluators – usually forensic psychologists, but occasionally forsensic psychiatrists and social workers, who will give an opinion of custody and parenting time
- educational experts – to determine which school or school district is better, what program is better, public vs. private school issues, educations issues regarding children with special needs
- employability experts – to determine what someone can and/or should be earning.
- pension appraisers – usually actuaries, to determine the value of a pension, parse out premarital shares of 401ks, and draft Qualified Domestic Relations Orders
- Real estate appraisers
- personal property appraisers
- jewelry appraisers
- art, coin, antique appraisers
- medical doctors – to assess disabilities or sometimes personal injuries
- handwriting experts
- computer forensics
- Interpreting services (for documents in foreign languages)
- experts to value intellectual property
There are probably many other types of experts. This list does not even include other professionals that may help the parties, but probably not testify, like financial planners, stock brokers, insurance agents, parent coordinators, reunification therapists or for that matter any treating therapists.
Over the years, we have worked with most or all of these types of experts as the need has arisen. Should an issue requiring an expert come up in one of our client’s cases, we are well equipped to handle it.