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Is a Joint Financial Expert Right for You?

Posted by Shawn Murphy | Mar 16, 2023 | 0 Comments

In the course of your dissolution, you may find that you need to hire a financial expert, such as a forensic CPA to perform certain tasks, such as valuing a business, determining a party's income available for support, ascertaining the community interest in a separate property residence that had mortgage payments made on it during the marriage, or tracing certain separate property contributions to commingled or joint assets and accounts. These services do not come cheap, with most forensic CPAs costing as much per hour as your attorney.  You may be wondering if you and your spouse need to each hire your own expert.  The answer to that, as most things in family law, depends.

There are advantages to hiring a joint financial expert to perform these tasks.  Namely, the joint expert will work with both parties to ensure receipt of all necessary information to perform the forensic accounting and valuation procedures. The cost of hiring one expert could be significantly lower than hiring separate experts for each party to the divorce. Hiring a joint expert may lead to a shorter resolution time, as there are fewer opportunities for major data discrepancies between the parties. Because the expert is hired jointly, both parties have an incentive to cooperate with the forensic accounting expert. Though not always, a joint expert can reduce the level of litigation surrounding an issue because of their neutral stance.  Finally, Courts tend to give a joint expert's opinion more weight because there is no inherent bias in their relationship with the parties.

There are, however, some risks in hiring a joint expert.  First, the expert is a neutral and thus will not be advocating on behalf of either client. Second, it may not work if the divorce is excessively contentious and history has shown that the parties have not agreed on many financial decisions. Other reasons for hiring your own expert include:

  • One of the parties to the divorce is not likely to agree to accept the opinion of the joint forensic accounting expert
  • The parties to the divorce have vastly different opinions of the value of marital assets
  • One of the parties to the divorce owns a business whose value is heavily disputed
  • One of the parties has planned the divorce in advance, and may have adjusted business and personal assets to make accurate determination of their values more difficult

Additionally, with your own expert you can have significant impact on the narrative of their report.  That is not to say you can/should hire an expert to lie for you, but in a situation where the facts could go either way, your own expert should tell the story in light of the facts most favorable to your case. Most importantly though, if after analyzing the facts of your case your expert's findings are not in your favor, you are under no obligation to release their report or findings. With a joint expert, both parties will receive the expert's findings and conclusions.

Determining whether to share the expense of a joint expert is a decision that must be carefully made with the advice of your attorney, as every situation is different.  Further, some experts do not choose to take joint assignments, preferring to advocate for one client only.  If your case requires the use of a financial expert, you should consider hiring reputable legal counsel to assist you in making the most out of your investment and help guide you through the nuances of the financial aspects of your dissolution.  At Murphy Family Law, we work with highly qualified financial experts and forensic CPAs to help you ensure you receive your equitable half of the marital estate and any separate property reimbursements you may be entitled to.  Call us today for a consultation!

About the Author

Shawn Murphy

Attorney - Certified Family Law Specialist


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