Recently, my partner, Mark Ashton, in our Exton (Chester County, Pennsylvania) office wrote an excellent post on our Pennsylvania Family Law Blog entitled "How Do Trials Work."  Too see his post, click here.

While much of the trial experience is the same, there are differences in New Jersey practice and procedure.  For instance, in Pennsylvania, it appears that many trials are conducted before a Master, who is a lawyer appointed by the Court to hear matters and make recommendations.  In New Jersey, we try cases in front of Superior Court Judges.  The only exception is when parties agree to try their matter in arbitration – though that cannot be compelled by a Court in a divorce matter.

Trials are rare.  They tell us that about 99% of the cases settle.  That said, after the discovery, appraisals, evaluations, depositions, Early Settlement Panel, mandatory economic mediation and in some counties Intensive Settlement Conferences at the courthouse, if the case is not resolved, trial is the last mechanism to get resolution.

Though each judge is different, many have a pre-trial Order requiring the parties to submit several things to the Court in advance to save precious court time at trial for the actual trial.  These submissions often include a trial brief wherein you set forth a parties position and the law and facts to support it, witness lists, exhibit lists (both for each party and a joint list), and stipulations.  Some judges actually want the actual exhibits in advance too. When we prepare, we typically put our exhibits in binders (4 sets – one for us, one for the judge, one for the other side and one for the witness). 

Stipulations are essentially a list of agreed upon facts that you don’t have to spend trial time to establish.  While these are helpful, I have had at least one adversary tell me that he wont do them because it interferes with the flow of the presentation.  I think that ta ht is a valid point, but nevertheless, I try to enter into stipulations when possible. 

When you show up at the courthouse for trial, most judges will want to conference the case to give you one last chance to settle.  In fact, some attorneys show up unprepared to actually try the case because they are counting on this.  That is bad practice because the best way to be prepared to settle a case is to be prepared to try it because you are bargaining from a position of strength. Continue Reading What Happens At Trials

On June 21, 2007, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, “AICPA”, released the Statement on Standards for Valuation Services No. 1 (SSVS No. 1) – Valuation of a Business, Business Ownership Interest, Security, or Intangible Asset (“Standards”). These standards are effective for all valuation engagements accepted on or after January 1, 2008. The purpose of these Standards is to improve the consistency and quality of practice among CPAs that perform valuation services. The Standards were developed because Congress, government agencies and regulators have recently focused their attention on valuation issues, as well as the increasing demand for valuation services over the past 20 years.

The Standards specify two types of engagements: valuation engagements and calculation engagements. Valuation engagements would typically be the one required in a divorce matter.

In determining whether the valuation engagement can reasonably be expected to be completed with professional competence, the standards require that the valuation analyst consider, at a minimum, the following: (a) the subject entity and its industry; (b) the subject interest; (c) the valuation date; (d) the scope of the valuation engagement (including the purpose of the engagement, any assumptions or limiting conditions that are expected to apply to the valuation, the applicable standard of value (i.e. fair market value or fair value) and premise of value (i.e. going concern), the type of report to be issued, the intended use and users and the restrictions on the use of the report); and (e) any governmental regulations or other professional standards that apply to the entity to be valued or to the valuation engagement.

Additionally, in understanding the nature and the risks of the valuation services to be provided, the standards require that the expert should consider: (a) the proposed terms of the engagement; (b) the identity of the client; (c) the nature of the ownership interest, including control and marketability issues; (d) the procedural requirements of the valuation and whether they will be limited by either the client or circumstances beyond the client’s control; (e) the use and limitations of the report and the conclusion or calculated value; and (f) any obligation to update the valuation.Continue Reading Is Uniformity in Business Valuations Upon Us? – The New AICPA Business Valuation Standards