Depending on the nature and complexity of the issues in dispute in your divorce or child custody matter, your attorney may recommend that you engage the services of non-lawyer professionals to assist with certain aspects of your case. The cost of retaining non-lawyer professionals can add to your legal expenses. Therefore, your attorney must weigh the cost to you of retaining a specific professional with the legal necessity and the added benefit to your case. If your attorney recommends that you retain another professional, it is likely because he/she has deemed it essential to supporting or defending certain positions or claims that are necessary to helping you achieve a certain result. In some situations, you and your spouse may be able to agree to jointly engage the services of a necessary professional, such as a real estate appraiser, and share the cost of the professional’s services to keep your expenses to a minimum.
The following is a list of non-lawyer professionals that your attorney may recommend that you retain to assist with your divorce or child custody related matters:
- Psychologist or licensed professional therapist. A therapist or psychologist may offer one-on-one counseling for a child or party who is experiencing mental health issues or having emotional difficulty adjusting to divorce. A psychologist may be appointed by the court, or retained by one or both parties, for purposes of performing a child custody evaluation that may include custody recommendations, evaluating and offering an opinion as to the mental health of the child and of one or both parents, assessing allegations of abuse, evaluating emotional or developmental impediments of the child, and/or assessing a parent’s substance abuse or overall fitness. A psychologist may also be recommended or engaged to work with the child and one or both parents to improve communications and develop healthier relationships.
- Real estate appraiser or personal property appraiser. Marital assets and debts that are subject to division must be valued, and it is often necessary to retain a real estate appraiser to value the marital home and other real estate owned by the parties, or a personal property appraiser to value certain items of personal property such as collectibles, guns, artwork, coin collections, and jewelry.
- Business valuator. A certified business appraiser or accredited business valuator may be necessary to value a business or business interest, such as a sole proprietorship, corporation, partnership, professional association, or other closely held business interest.
- CPA. A certified public accountant can provide valuable financial services related to divorce, including determining tax implications associated with paying or receiving alimony, performing tracing of separate property, analyzing financial documents to look for hidden or secreted assets, valuing pension and retirement accounts for purposes of equitable distribution, and post-divorce financial planning.
- A digital forensic expert. These professionals can be of assistance when a party’s phone, computer, or other digital devices may contain evidence that is crucial to a party’s claim or otherwise relevant to the issues at hand.
- Vocational expert. In a family law context, a vocational expert may be retained in a case that involves spousal support or high income child support to analyze and offer an opinion regarding a spouse’s or parent’s present and future employability, employment opportunities, and income earning potential.
- Financial advisor. A financial advisor may be engaged to assist a spouse who is expected to receive substantial assets in a divorce settlement. The financial advisor may assist with investment strategies and options, budgeting, and other post-divorce financial planning.
Professionals that are retained to perform an evaluation, prepare a report, or otherwise render a professional opinion that is relevant to the case may be qualified as experts. As such, these professionals may be called on to testify at a deposition or in court proceedings. Judges rely on the evidence that is presented to them to make decisions. Thus, the opinion and testimony of a credible expert witness, whether retained by you or your spouse, can have a significant impact on the outcome of your case.
The family law attorneys at Gum, Hillier, and McCroskey, P. A. have a well-established network of qualified and reputable professionals who are available to assist in divorce and other family related matters. We can help you determine if, and when, you should hire an expert witness or other divorce related professional to assist with your case.
This article is for information purposes only and is not to be considered or substituted as legal advice. The information in this article is based on North Carolina state laws in effect at the time of posting.