Certified Public accountants are used for financial issues, including: determining gross/net income available for support, identifying which assets are community and which are separate property, determining separate property interests in community interest (tracing of Family Code (FC) section 2640 claims), or community interests in separate property.
Forensic accountants are also critical in determining reimbursement rights. Examples would be for post-separation fair rental value or exclusive use and possession of community property (home), Epstein credits such as post separation payment of community obligations (car), Watts charges such as post separation exclusive use of community assets or any claims under FC 915, 916, 920 and 2640.
Appraisers are used for business valuation and apportionment experts. I have many clients that are in the tech industry and intellectual property expert is critical to my analysis of their assets. Real estate appraisers, brokers/agents are needed to value real property assets. The three appraisal methods are codified under Evidence Code (ECP sections 815-820.
Personal property primarily jewelry and art and for these types of assets, estate appraisers, auction companies or expert appraisers of a particular property i.e. stamp collection are experts needed to successfully monetize property.
Employment, business and compensation experts would be needed if a spouse has been a “stay at-home” spouse but had prior work experience, education and skills. A vocational evaluator would assess an individual’s work skills, transferability and marketability. This expert can perform labor market research and employer sampling. This is especially critical in the areas of child and spousal support.
Executive compensation experts can assess goodwill and reasonable compensation to establish or negate community interest in a separate property business or to apportion interests. Business sales experts evaluate terms of business buyout, buy-sell agreement, non-compete agreement, and reasonableness of a particular sale.
There are guidelines for selecting and using financial experts. The expert’s conclusions should be based on sound facts, analysis, and methodology. I also make sure my experts are able to explain away facts that are not in his/her favor. Declarations of the experts are something I file with the court. Conclusions should be at the beginning with supporting data easy to find.
Qualifying expert witnesses are outlined under EC 720(a). Expert qualifications are established by preliminary examination of expert by proponent before testifying. He/she is then subject to voir dire by opponent, if desired.
The subject matter and scope of expert testimony are 3 elements noted in EC section 801. The court is the “gate keeper” of expert testimony (in deciding whether to exclude). “The court may, and upon objection shall, exclude testimony in the form of an opinion that is based in whole or in significant part on matter that is not a proper basis for such an opinion (EC 803).
The use of experts is not necessary for all cases but for complex, high income/asset divorce cases, experts are critical. Feel free to contact me at [email protected] or call my office at 310-601-7144.