199 - What Are Common Experts Used In Divorce Cases?
Experts can be used to not only help win a case, but also to simplify complicated issues to help parties settle their case. In this show, Leh and Todd break down the experts that you commonly see in a divorce case. They explain the type of experts that you can hire in child custody disputes, asset disputes, as well as in child support and alimony disputes. If you are having trouble with an issue in your divorce, an expert may be able to help. Tune in to hear the types that are available.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome, everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether, and with me is Todd Orston. We are your co hosts for Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by the divorce and family law firm of Meriwether & Tharp. Here you will learn about divorce, family law, and from time to time even tips on how to save your marriage if it's in the middle of a crisis. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at Atlantadivorceteam.com. How are you doing today, Todd?
Todd Orston: I am well. Yeah, I'm thinking about it, but I think I'm good. I think I'm going to be okay.
Leh Meriwether: Well, good. Yeah.
Todd Orston: Yeah.
Leh Meriwether: Well, I don't know if you know this, but I'm an expert at using a chainsaw, and I can take a log and turn it into live edge slabs and lumber.
Todd Orston: Wow. You know what, if we're going to go this route, I am an expert also.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah.
Todd Orston: I can take a 16 inch pizza and make it disappear in about 15 minutes.
Leh Meriwether: That's impressive.
Todd Orston: It's a skill. I learned it in college, and I've been training ever since.
Leh Meriwether: I'm sure that skill comes in handy in the courtroom.
Todd Orston: Oh, hey, it did well, at least during lunchtime. You know how many times I've had to scarf down food as I'm racing back to court?
Leh Meriwether: This is true.
Todd Orston: Yeah. So all right. So I'm picking up on a theme here.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah.
Todd Orston: We're going to talk about experts.
Leh Meriwether: That was ... yeah.
Todd Orston: [crosstalk 00:01:54].
Leh Meriwether: We're [inaudible 00:01:55] about the stuff we're experts at, but experts that you might encounter in a divorce or child custody case or support case.
Todd Orston: Yeah. They're not always required. Look, when we started this show, I went with a complete amateur, but sometimes bringing in-
Leh Meriwether: Oh, boy.
Todd Orston: Sometimes bringing in an expert, jokes aside, I'm glad you brought me in.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah, absolutely.
Todd Orston: Exactly. Sometimes bringing in an expert is not just useful, it's needed. And we were talking offline, and basically, if you think of it this way, when you go to hire an attorney, whether it's in family law, or a different area of law, why are you doing that? Well, because they have a higher level of training, education, and expertise, that you believe it's going to benefit you. They have this knowledge and skill that you don't have, and you believe it's going to be needed in what you're trying to accomplish. Well, the same thing goes, now bring it back to divorce world, the same thing goes in the cases that we handle. Do we have a higher level of expertise when dealing with division of an estate? Absolutely. Do we have a higher level of experience and expertise when we are dealing with custodial issues and what's going to be in the best interest of a child? Absolutely. Do we know everything? Far from it. And so ...
Leh Meriwether: [inaudible 00:03:29] yourself.
Todd Orston: Wow, Mr. Ego.
Leh Meriwether: I am totally kidding.
Todd Orston: I know you're kidding. I know. So no, but you know what I'm saying. And there are times where we have to look at the situation. Sometimes it's because the other side hired an expert, and we're like, we don't want to be the one of the two parties who doesn't have an expert walking into court. We don't want the judge to only hear from their expert. So we may need our own. Or sometimes we just decide this is fairly complex. And even though we understand it, educating the judge, we're going to need someone to do this analysis and be able to walk into court and help us educate the judge as to what is the right thing to do.
Leh Meriwether: And speaking of educating the judge, there are two important factors that everyone needs to understand when they think about an expert, because ... and I've been asked before, well, I hired you because you are an expert in dealing with businesses. Why do I have to hire a business evaluator if you can get a general idea of the value of the business? Well, there's two elements to that. Number one, we cannot be your attorney and testify in court at the same time. We don't present evidence. We ask questions and the witness presents evidence. So that's the first thing. We as attorneys cannot present the evidence in court or we can make a conclusion at our argument, closing argument, into the case. And we can try to persuade the judge as to why the evidence we have presented on our side should be given higher credibility than the other side's evidence. So, that's what we argue. But that argument is not the presentation of evidence. So, that's number one.
And number two, is weight given to evidence. So in the courtroom, people can give their lay opinion testimony, and then you have expert testimony. And so when the court is evaluating the weight of testament, I've literally had a judge say this in court. We had an expert the other side didn't, the court said, "I've heard some very compelling testimony today, but when I take the totality of the evidence, I have to give greater weight to the expert testimony that I've heard today. And because of the expert testimony, I'm ruling in favor of the plaintiff." And so, I don't know if that was an exact quote from the judge, but that's my recollection of what he said. So he literally said from his bench, that his ruling was in part because we had an expert testify and he had to give greater weight to that expert.
Now, does that mean the judge has to listen to the expert? No, the judge doesn't have to. But all things being equal and if you haven't ... we're going to later talk about, maybe not in this show, but we're going to have other shows about experts. And when you've got some crazy experts that the court, I've seen courts just disregard, putting that aside for the moment, when you have a credible expert, the court gives a greater weight.
Todd Orston: Yeah, absolutely. Choosing the right expert, we can do a series of shows on that, but there are experts who, as soon as you pay their fee, they will say just about anything, and there are good experts. The experts who are like us, we're here to do a good job, and we are going to take that high road. And I'm not trying to pat us on the back unnecessarily. I'm simply saying, there are very good experts. And we, as a firm have associated with fantastic experts that we know. If the evidence, or if the opinion is going to go against our client, we don't want an expert just saying, "Well, I can do and say whatever it takes to say the opposite to support your client." We have experts on the financial side, custodial side, who are going to look at us, look at our client, and say, "Look, here's the truth. This is what I think. It may not be great for you, but I think if we go to court, they're going to have an expert that probably says this, that will allow us to come up with a strategy to deal with that limitation."
But nonetheless, choosing the right expert is incredibly important. But now getting to, in terms of experts, what kind of experts-
Leh Meriwether: Okay, before we get there, you just made a great point, I just wanted to make sure that our listeners caught on too. Because we're talking about the why. Why you would hire an expert. And in this case, you may think that, let's say the other side has a business. And we think that business is worth $2 million, or it has a value of $2 million. But you hire a qualified expert to come in and do a preliminary evaluation of that business. And they come back and say, "I can't get over it being worth over over 150,000 or 500,000, just do that." So it's literally a quarter of the value. So now all of a sudden, rather than spending a tremendous amount of money for a trial, it is easier to ... you may settle the case for a reasonable number.
And so an expert can actually, even though the expert cost money, you have to pay them, they can save you money in the long run, you hire quality expert. And that's why I just wanted to make sure that everybody caught that point you just made.
Todd Orston: Yeah. No, I didn't even catch it. But you're right. The expert can help you get over that negotiating hump, right? Because if you dig in, and you don't have the good information you need to make good decisions, you may get stuck negotiating a point and you're just wrong. That person could say, "I'm not giving you half of $2 million." Another says, "Well, I'm getting my half $2 million in the value of that business." And really, an expert jumps in and goes, "Listen, here's how you value, here's the methodology. It's not worth 2 million." That's going to allow everyone to have hopefully, a calmer conversation and come up with something that both parties can be unhappy with.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah.
Todd Orston: I love that saying, a good agreement is one that both parties walk away unhappy, meaning they're both going to give something up, they're both going to get something in return, but hey, we reached an agreement.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. And so when we come back, we're going to talk about the different types of custody ... not custody, different kinds of experts that you might see in a divorce case, or their companion cases. So we're going to talk about custody experts, we're going to talk about experts that you bring in to deal with division of assets and liabilities, and there's even experts that you would use in cases involving support, child support and alimony. And we obviously don't have time to hit every single expert, but we're going to talk about the most common experts that you might run into in a divorce, or modification case, or alimony, or child support case, when we come back.
I just wanted to let you know that if you ever want to listen to the show live, you can listen at 1:00 am on Monday mornings, WSB. So you can always check us out there as well.
Todd Orston: Better than counting sheep, I guess. Right? You can turn on the show and we'll help you fall asleep.
Leh Meriwether: There you go.
Todd Orston: I'll talk very soft.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome back, everyone. This is Leh and Todd, and we are your co hosts for Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by the divorce and family law firm of Meriwether & Tharp. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at Atlantadivorceteam.com. If you want to read a transcript of this show, or go back and listen to it again, you can find it at Divorceteamradio.com. By the way, if you're listening to this contemporaneously, or when we were publishing it, we're a little behind on the website on the shows, I noticed, because we are redoing our website and the new website has launched. So hopefully, we're going to get caught up with the shows on the website. I'm hoping that happens soon, but in case you go there and say, "Hey, I don't see this show 195 up there." It's going to be up there. We're just running a little behind, because we are redoing the website.
Todd Orston: Okay. We need an expert. We need an expert to get that up on the website.
Leh Meriwether: We do. And there are some experts in that field, thank goodness. All right, so let's talk about the different kinds of experts that we see in divorce cases in our custody cases. And we'll start with custody, because there's a lot of different kind of experts that you can run into in a custody case or a divorce case involving contested custody. So you want to start?
Todd Orston: Absolutely. So when you're dealing with these custody issues, some people might say, what do you mean, an expert? Why do we need an expert? We're dealing with where little Johnny or little Mary is going to go and how much time with one parent or the other, why do we need an expert? Okay, well, there are different levels, right? We have people who are called custodial evaluators, who can come in and they can help do some investigating to figure out what they believe in their opinion, will be in the best interest of a child. And obviously, depending on what the issues are, and the severity of those issues, sometimes courts will even appoint psychologists or psychiatrists to jump in.
There's also something called a guardian ad litem. So some people, if you are thinking about going down this path, if you've done some reading, maybe you've read about a guardian ad litem. And a guardian is in this context, someone who is appointed by the court to do exactly what the court can't do. The court doesn't have the ability during the pendency of your case, not during the hearing or a trial, but during the case pending. The court isn't going to say, "Well, I want to learn more about Johnny, I want to learn more about Mary. And let me talk to some witnesses. I'm going to do my own investigating so that when we have ..." the court doesn't do that. When you go in front of a judge, you have to understand that's your day in court. Other than motions that have been filed, things that are in writing presented to the court, the judge doesn't know you from Adam or Eve.
And so these experts, again, they are for use, hopefully to avoid court, but also if you go to court so that you have someone that can present, and there are different experts. Like a guardian will be appointed for both parties. It's for the case, it's not for a party. They are appointed to help in the case. But you may need your own expert on the psychological side, let's say to step in if there are psychological concerns about a party or about the child that would influence or could influence where custody should be, who should have primary physical custody or legal decision making authority, those are the types of experts that can jump in and help.
Todd Orston: And so, in Georgia, at least, a guardian litem is considered an expert, believe the same as in most states, but every state has its own separate laws on how the guardian litem works, or at what point to we're not going to get in to the legal issues surrounding, when does a court appoint a forensic psychologist, for example? But even a guardian ad litem, we've had cases where they come in and they start to do an investigation, and one parent is talking about a child that has special needs. And we've had cases where one parent doesn't believe the child has special needs and needs some special education. And so the guardian litem will recognize there's an issue there, and then they will recommend to the court that an expert be hired just to evaluate the child.
Sometimes the experts just evaluate, we've seen cases with homeschooling. And I know some fantastic kids that have been homeschooled, and I know some fantastic parents that have homeschooled their kids, where every kid went to an Ivy League school as a result of the homeschooling. So I'm not trying to say anything bad about that just to be clear, but we've had a lot of cases where one parent says, "Hey, I'm homeschooling the kids," and they really shouldn't be homeschooling the kids, and the kids are like three grades behind. And so an expert gets appointed to an educational expert, and they do an evaluation of the children to see where they rank and then they'll come to court and testify. And often the court will ... I've had cases where the judge appoints an expert because they're like, "Well, I can't do it. I can't have the kids come into my courtroom and do an evaluation of their ... and I couldn't tell you what grade they're in."
So the court says, "I want to know what this is, and I want an unbiased, neutral evaluator, so I'm going to appoint someone."
Leh Meriwether: Yeah, that's a great point. So to be clear, there are really three ways it could happen. Number one, you as a party can file your own motion, because you think that it's appropriate that that expert, whatever the expert is, be appointed, or a guardian ad litem.
Todd Orston: At the court.
Leh Meriwether: Right. You can make a motion to the court saying, "I would like a psychological evaluation of the other party, or of the children or whatever the case might be." You can file your own motion. That brings the issue directly to the court and the court will make a decision. Or a guardian ad litem, let's say could be a point. That's very common here in Georgia. All right. So it's very common when there's a contested custody matter for a guardian ad litem to be appointed. There are some courts where it's automatic. They have their own guardian ad litem departments, where a guardian ad litem is immediately appointed and assigned to a case. So it's very, very common. Secondarily then, the guardian can say, "I recognize the need for even some additional expertise to be brought into the case." And then third, like you said, a judge could say, "I'm hearing what you're saying, and I have no idea what's right, what's reasonable, but I'll tell you what, we're going to get an expert in. And they're going to do some investigating, then they're going to come back, give their opinions to me, and then I'll be in a better position to make a decision."
Todd Orston: And you did say, sorry, I was checking our notes about what was next, you did say that you can hire your own expert.
Leh Meriwether: Yes. It wasn't back to the show.
Todd Orston: No, I was checking something and I missed it. Sorry.
Leh Meriwether: No, it's all good.
Todd Orston: No, yes, [inaudible 00:18:49].
Leh Meriwether: I was saying that when I make a mistake, [inaudible 00:18:51].
Todd Orston: Absolutely. And you do so often. So, only kidding. Only joking. No, I was saying that tere's the three ways you can actually make your motion to the court, the court could appoint or let's say a guardian is involved, the guardian has the ability to make that decision.
Leh Meriwether: Sorry about that. Okay. I was making sure, because we have a lot to cover, and we'll make sure we get all night accidentally jumped ahead. All right. Actually, it wasn't accidental. It was on purpose. I just thought I can multitask, but apparently I can't.
Todd Orston: All right, this is a 45 minute show, Leh. So we're going to do our apology on how this show went, next show.
Leh Meriwether: Okay. All right. So the other expert you can hire is actually a private investigator. And sometimes we will hire private investigators before a show ever starts. And that's to catch inappropriate behavior. So what do I mean by that? Here's an example. The kids come home one day and said, "Dad, Mom had this strange, her breath smelled really weird." And dad says, "That's strange, okay." And then the next day the daycare center says, "Sir, I'm concerned that your ex wife or wife may have been drinking," and takes a lot of courage to come out and tell a parent that, another parent that, and so before you run into the courthouse to do a modification case or anything like that, you need to do some investigation. So you can hire a private investigator, and trail the other parent. And we've seen cases where the parent got off work, went to the bar, drank a few, several drinks, and then went and picked up the children, which obviously is not safe. Not safe for the children and not safe for the people around the children, around that car.
And so that's a type of example. We've seen cases where private investigators caught parents purchasing drugs, illegal mind altering drugs that would impair their ability to parent. So that's another expert. And along the same lines, you can actually hire a forensic accountant to prove addiction issues, because some parents or people are really good at hiding their addiction. They don't drink and drive, they don't do those things, but as soon as they get home, they're impaired and absent videotaping it. It's hard to catch them. And so you can have someone go through financial records to show frequency of purchases of alcohol at certain locations.
Todd Orston: Yeah. And sometimes it's really hard, had one situation, I know we're running out of time, where we literally could see that cash was being withdrawn at the same ATM. And we were able to then track it to a liquor store. And that's how we were able to show and at least get the court to pay some more attention and give some more assistance in determining whether or not there was a drinking problem, because clearly, the cash was then being used to buy the liquor.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. And so these kind of experts can help in those situations. When we come back, we're going to talk about the experts with divisions of assets and liabilities.
Todd Orston: Hey, everyone, you're listening to our podcast, but you have alternatives. You have choices. You can listen to us live also at 1:00 am, on Monday morning on WSB.
Leh Meriwether: If you're enjoying the show, we would love it if you could go rate us on iTunes or wherever you may be listening to it. Give us a five star rating and tell us why you like the show.
Welcome back, everyone. This is Leh and Todd, your co hosts of Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by the divorce and family law firm of Meriwether & Tharp. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online Atlantadivorceteam.com. And if you want to read a transcript of this show, or go back and listen to it again, you can find it a Divorceteamradio.com. Well, today we're talking about experts and in particularly the kind of experts that you may encounter in a divorce, child custody or support case. And I'm really going to listen to Todd this time. I'm not going to jump ahead. I think that's the first time that's ever happened in almost 200 shows. Next week is going to be our 200th show.
Todd Orston: I'm surprised you remember that. Yeah, no, that's exciting. But let's worry about 199, and then we'll talk about 200.
Leh Meriwether: Like those football teams that look ahead to the next big game, they lose that game, they should wipe out, they're playing a team they should destroy by 30, 40 points and they lose to them because they're thinking ahead to the next game. That's what happened to me.
Todd Orston: You can sell it however you want to sell. All right.
Leh Meriwether: Hey, could have pretended I didn't know this, but [inaudible 00:24:00] guy. When you listen to this show, you're getting two honest guys, we don't care. We are here to give you honest information, even if we embarrass ourselves.
Todd Orston: Absolutely, yeah. Which we do quite often. But all right. So yeah, let's talk about experts in the use of ... or rather in cases that deal with financial issues. So division of property and things like that, because I can tell you right now, this comes up often. Bringing in a forensic accountant, someone who can really dig deeply, who can take a look at bank records, credit card statements, retirement, they are the people who again, do we have some expertise in this? Of course. Can we testify? No. Do we have the ability to analyze documents? Of course. But depending on the attorney, but we even hit a line where we're like, "Okay, I think we're going to need somebody who can really ... this is what they do, they can really dig deeper."
And I can tell you, we have story after story of hiring someone to deal with a valuation issue, where we can prove because of that expert, we can prove a higher or lower valuation. We have found assets offshore, we have located spending habits, because we may go in, and we may say, "Hey, our client wants a bigger or the other parties should have a smaller portion of the estate, because of their spending." And we can bring someone in to really hyper focus on the finances and be able to testify to the court, "Hey, their estate would have been 50,000, 100, a million dollars higher, but for their bad spending decisions." And we're not talking about they made some bad stock decisions. We're talking living second lives and buying gifts for people and squirreling money away in offshore accounts, those types of things. And that can make or break the financial part of the case.
Leh Meriwether: You just brought up another point that I wish we'd had in the first segment. But it's when it comes to why you should hire an expert, what we talked about, they can actually save you money. But one aspect of that I didn't think of to add in there was [inaudible 00:26:32] there going through scores and scores of bank statements. And often an expert witness, depending on the subject matter, is less expensive than a lawyer. So I've seen lots of cases where the lawyer was $500 an hour, but the expert was only $200 an hour.
Todd Orston: And they are more efficient also.
Leh Meriwether: Right, because [crosstalk 00:26:51].
Todd Orston: That's a great point. Yeah, they can very quickly get through, we've handed over thousands of pages of documents, it might take us X amount of time, whatever, but it's going to probably take that expert a lot less time because they know what to look for. They immediately, they've got that sixth sense, that radar that they can just hone in on Yeah, that's a problem, that's an issue, and then get us to a point where we can start working with our client and going, "Hey, this is what the accountant found. Let's go through. Are these your charges?" "No, they're not." Okay. Now, let's start trying to figure out through discovery, why these monies were spent, or where they went, and then we can hopefully get the answers we need to settle.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah, and we've even used experts to go through the records before a deposition, which also is, so they'll go through statements, and I'm like, man, there's a trend here, things aren't adding up. And here are the questions that I would ask the opponent, that's the person who's sitting for the deposition, the husband or the wife, I would ask them these questions about these bank records. So they'll actually connect. They can actually help you prepare the lawyer I should say, help the lawyer prepare their cross examination. And there have been cases where basically a bomb was dropped in the middle of the deposition that resulted in settlement of the case very quickly.
So again, they can be very helpful in saving money, because they help better prepare the lawyer, they can testify in court, they can find things that a lawyer will ultimately find, but they can find it sooner, faster, more efficiently and less expensively. Usually, there's always an exception rule. So there's different types of experts that you can get like, Todd, you mentioned one, like when talking about evaluating retirement accounts. And so sometimes pensions, you're trying to create what's called a present day value to a pension. So you would hire an expert to come in and testify about that, the potential present day value of a pension, or a good way to handle certain retirement accounts. So there are experts regarding pensions and retirement accounts. A common one is a CPA. Sometimes you have CPAs analyze things for tax liabilities, for unfiled taxes, tax liability associated with a certain asset, for instance, a lot of people don't realize this, but rental property.
So if you create an LLC and put the rental property in it, you can depreciate that asset over time. And every year you say, well, now the assets now worth instead of $200,000 is worth $190,000, or whatever the number may be, because of the use of the tenants. And then as a result of that, you can later turn around and sell that. But there's going to be a capital gain, not from the point where you purchased the home, but as a result of the depreciation. And if I've lost you, well, that's an example of why we need an expert.
Todd Orston: But these issues come up all the time.
Leh Meriwether: Right. When you're dealing with bigger estates, you're 100% correct, that we bring these experts in, because just think about how you just presented this and how your response immediately was, you see how this can get a little bit more complex? Well, now think of it from our point of view, when we're getting ready to present something to a court. And we are preparing for a trial or a hearing on that issue. If we talk in circles, and we start throwing all sorts of data out in a way that's not very efficient, I have literally seen judges glaze over. And I can't see what's going on the computer screen. I am sure it's a game. I'm sure it's like a crossword.
Todd Orston: And then the judge looks up and says, "Did you say say [inaudible 00:31:00]?"
Leh Meriwether: Exactly. I don't know if you mention this, but I have seen that happen before, actually. Yes. But jokes aside, judges work incredibly hard.
Todd Orston: Yeah.
Leh Meriwether: But the point is that if you lose the judge, meaning if you lose their attention, if you start talking about things, and you don't do a good job, then you're not ... we as the attorney, we're not doing our job. Our job is to convince the court that our client's position is the strong position.
Todd Orston: Right. The expert helps us make that presentation. And one other thing that I quit squirrel, that in terms of hiring an expert, all right, this is incredibly important. If you have an attorney, which if you're hiring experts, I'm going to assume you have an attorney that's helping you. But if you have an attorney, you want the attorney to be the one to hire the expert. Don't listen to this show, you have a case pending, and you race out and hire a forensic accountant or someone on the custody side or some other type of expert, you want it to be someone who is hired by your attorney. That way, that person, that expert, all the work that person is doing, it's attorney work product.
Leh Meriwether: Good point.
Todd Orston: So it is an expert hired by the attorney to do that legal work. And therefore, initially, the information that person has collected, the analysis they have done, it's protected, as opposed to, excuse me, as opposed to you just go out and hire an expert. Everything is discoverable.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah.
Todd Orston: There is no work product, there's no attorney work product. And so it's incredibly important to make sure your attorney is the one that does the hiring.
Leh Meriwether: And on the flip side of that, the lawyers know there are certain experts that are considered hired guns and there's certain experts that are considered more neutral, and that the court is very familiar with them. So you could hire someone that while they their credentials look great, the court doesn't take them as seriously.
And so that's important. The lawyers tend to know the difference. And when we come back, we're going to finish up talking about experts, with dealing with the division of assets and liabilities.
I just wanted to let you know that if you ever want to listen to the show live, you can listen at 1:00 am on Monday mornings, WSB. So you can always check us out there as well.
Todd Orston: Better than counting sheep, I guess.
Leh Meriwether: That's right.
Todd Orston: You can turn on the show and we'll help you fall asleep.
Leh Meriwether: There you go.
Todd Orston: I'll talk very soft.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome back, everyone. This is Leh and Todd and we are your co hosts for Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by the divorce and family law firm of Meriwether & Tharp. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online in Atlantadivorceteam.com. If you want to read a transcript of this show, you can find it at Divorceteamradio.com. Well, today we're talking about experts, the kind of experts that you're most likely to see in a divorce case or a custody case or modification, a case involving support. And so we're breaking down just kind of experts you might see and the ones you might consider hiring. And we're going to have some later x, we're going to bring some of these different kinds of experts on the show later and talk about when you might want to hire them, all the things that they can do for your case, we'll go much more specific, a lot deeper in future shows this year.
Okay, so we're going to wrap up division of assets and liabilities and then we're going to talk about the kind of experts you would see in support cases, because believe it or not, in child support and alimony cases, there are experts that focus on certain aspects of someone's income. All right. So we talked about CPAs for tax liabilities, pension experts. What we didn't get into was some evaluators. So there's appraisers for real property, both residential and commercial, the ones we see the most common are residential. And they're often very helpful, let's say someone, the parties have decided that, let's say, mom is going to live in the house with the children, and dad is going to move out. And they're trying to be fair about the value of the house. So they jointly decide to hire an appraiser to come in, and they've decided that they're going to stick with that appraiser's fair market value for the house when evaluating a division of assets to make everything fair.
So sometimes these experts are hired jointly by the parties rather than one party like dueling experts, and they help facilitate settlement. We've had that happen a lot. Now, the other kind of expert when it comes to real property, or commercial, they are often more difficult to find. I've had this happen recently, where a lot of them, they used to be a lot, but some have retired. And so commercial, and it's a much different animal, because with a commercial piece of real estate, has the potential for income generation, especially if they're renting. And so there's a much different analysis than say, someone's home.
And then there's business evaluators, for businesses. We've talked about those before. And you can have a very cursory evaluation, not spend a whole lot of money or you can have a deep dive, for someone where you're going to have dueling experts to testify in court.
Todd Orston: And it really is going to come down to like as an attorney, sometimes the way I'll refer to it as, we can do a full blown valuation of a business. And that may be required. Sometimes I'll say to someone, "Look, let's hire this expert to do what I call a quick and dirty valuation." They're going to do some basic analysis, they're going to apply some of those numbers to their methodologies. And there's different valuation methodologies that can be used. So that's where the dueling experts become really interesting, because you'll go into court, and you may have one expert adopting one methodology. And the other one is saying, "Hey, I agree on all the facts, on all the data in terms of numbers, but that's the wrong methodology. We need to use this methodology. So now, the dueling experts, it's not even an issue over revenue numbers. It's an issue over, what is the correct and appropriate methodology to use in valuing that particular business?
There's goodwill issues, we could do five shows on that. But the point is that, sometimes we'll do just a quick and dirty so that we can have that conversation so that we can sit down again, if you're with an attorney who is resolution focused, then what does that mean? It means the intention is try to get to a settlement sooner rather than later. Does that mean you give away the farm? No, it means properly value the farm. Let's just be able to go into that conversation with some reasonable numbers. So when we say, "Hey, we think the business is worth 500,000," and they start going, "What, are you a crazy?" Wait, hold on, take a deep breath. Here's what our expert did, here's a report, this is the analysis, here's the methodology they used taking goodwill and these other factors into consideration. So listen, go hire your own expert, do whatever you want to do. But I just wanted you to know we didn't pull this number out of the air. And hopefully you can calm things down, and then you can start having those meaningful settlement conversations.
Leh Meriwether: And the last one that we see is a forensic accountant to see if there's been a depletion of assets, where there's a suspicion that someone was shifting money to other accounts, so that wasn't going to be considered in the marital estate to be divided up. So that's the last one regarding that. Now, let's talk about support, child support and alimony. Well, I think that probably the first expert that we see most commonly when it comes to alimony is a private investigator. And that may be more specific for Georgia, because I don't know many states have this statute, but in Georgia, if a spouse ... if the cause of the divorce was adultery, that is a bar to alimony in Georgia. I don't know how many states have that. I know Florida doesn't have any anything like that, but it is in Georgia. So, that's an expert that we have when it comes to alimony. What other experts do we have, Todd?
Todd Orston: Well, so sometimes we do have to hire, like you said, a PI, a private investigator to look to see if adultery is occurring. Sometimes, we need forensic accountants to look to see our monies being transferred, or our money's just being used, just disappearing. We could go through records, and we could find cash withdrawals. We can go through money and see transfers. And then when we start looking at routing numbers and bank information, we're like, that doesn't tie into any of the known bank accounts, savings accounts, investment accounts, whatever, that is normally or that would be associated with the parties. And so we can start to track to see, okay, where is this money going? Sometimes it's purely spending. And so again, a forensic accountant to look and see, hey, over the course of even just the last year or so, this party has blown $50,000. If the other expert, or if we can quickly get to the point where we can prove, oh, yeah. This person is having an affair. We have found that money was being spent, jewelry was purchased, trips that were supposed to be "business trips," they weren't business trips, it was a trip with the power more or with that other party, and money was being spent.
Why is that important? Well, you don't want to just sit around and just bemoan the fact that you're $50,000 down, but the girlfriend had a lovely time in the Bahamas. You're doing it because that may open the door to through negotiation, or at a hearing, for you to argue to the court judge when we divide the estate, I want $50,000. I want to be basically made whole, but for that cheating, but for that bad behavior, I would have more money. So on the support side, I will tell you that oftentimes, we will bring people in, because we need to figure out when somebody says, "Well, my budget is this," we may need someone to help to figure out, is that a reasonable budget and is this what historical spending looked like? And then there's also someone called or an expert that is referred to as a vocational expert. Leh, why don't you tell us about vocational experts?
Leh Meriwether: This is a relatively new field. It's becoming more popular in the last few years. But a vocational expert can look at someone's skill set, they can actually have them take tests, and so someone saying, I can't work, whether it's a disability, or any number of reasons, a vocational expert can come in, analyze the situation. We did a whole show on it, I think it was Episode 30. So it was a while back, we need to have him back on. And they can come to say, you know what, this person actually can't go out based on their current skill set, their current education, and degrees and make $60,000 a year and they can testify in court. And that can have a big impact. And one thing I wanted to circle back to you talking about Todd, about the forensic accountant with hiding money or tracing money, on the support side, that can actually have a big impact too, because we've seen cases where people say, "I only make $50,000."
And so the forensic accountant comes in, sometimes working with a private investigator as well, and says, "Wait a minute, this person is living the lifestyle of someone who makes $120,000 a year, because based on their spending habits, and here's all the evidence of their spending habits, " and then sometimes a private investigator can follow the person and find out that they do things on the weekends for which they get paid cash. And so that can help prove someone actually has a greater income. And there are all kinds of things you can do, where the expert can analyze someone's spending, and say, "Look, there's no way they only make $50,000 a year, because they're spending far more than that, and having to pay taxes as well."
So all those experts come together, a vocational expert when someone's claiming they can't make money, someone who makes ... they claim they can't pay support, experts can say, "You know what? You can, because you actually make an extra $50,000 a year in cash that you're not reporting." So all these come together, all these experts come together to help you either win or settle your case. Everyone, thanks so much for listening. Unfortunately, we're out of time.