While most people will not need an expert witness in their divorce case, there are always exceptions. While expert witnesses may testify in a variety of fields, most often, the witness is a mental health professional testifying about child custody issues. If a family business is involved, a forensic accountant reviews the company’s financial information to determine a value for settlement purposes. When a divorce concerns a high-net worth individual, various expert witnesses might come in to testify about the worth of art, jewelry, antiques, and other items. Most appraisals take place outside of the courtroom, but such experts may come in when there is a dispute about an article’s value.
The marriages of most couples do not end in an actual trial, but that is the situation when expert witnesses are involved. If a divorce is quite contentious, the odds of the matter going to trial increase. While hiring expert witnesses is an expensive proposition, so is going to trial rather than reaching a consensus through negotiation. However, there are situations when only a trial resolves a matter.
Not all witnesses are experts. Character witnesses may testify about a person’s good character and behavior, but it seldom makes sense to have a relative testify in court on this matter. In a sense, each spouse acts as their own character witness in a trial. A spouse acting in a calm, rational manner makes a better impression than a spouse who appears angry and defensive.
No Fault versus Fault Divorce
While New Jersey is a no-fault divorce state, there are also grounds under which a spouse may sue for divorce. In a fault divorce, one spouse makes allegations against the other. These days, most divorces are no-fault, but when child support issues arise, witnesses may prove necessary.
The standard child support formula in New Jersey is straightforward, and is based on financial documents filed by both parents in the court. Spousal support, also known as alimony, is more difficult to determine and that is where expert witnesses may come in. For example, medical professionals may testify about one spouse’s health and their ability to work, or a vocational expert may testify about a spouse’s ability to get a job or their expected income. If one spouse suspects the other of hiding or undervaluing assets, this is where a forensic accountant may take the witness stand.