April 12, 2010
The use of experts can often assist mediating parties to reach agreements on difficult issues. The mediator can help the parties select a qualified financial professional if the issue involves support or equitable distribution. For example, one spouse may own a business or have an interest in a business. A business valuation expert can assess the fair market value of the spouse’s interest in that business. When the parties agree on a joint valuation expert, they can avoid the time and expense involved in having feuding experts. They will be provided with neutral information on which to make a reasoned decision.
A financial planner can also assist the parties. By assessing the future financial needs of each party, this expert can recommend the optimum distribution of the assets and the types of investments that will provide needed funds in the future.
Parties in mediation can also retain a forensic accountant to review the parties’ income and to analyze the cashflow that has been utilized during the marriage. This will help the parties determine their individual needs and assist in setting appropriate spousal and child support. An accountant is well-trained to understand and apply tax consequences, an essential part of determining the actual funds that each party does or will have available to them to pay their expenses.
Sometimes, an appraiser can assist in determining the value of property to be divided. For example, a real estate appraiser can determine the fair market value of the marital home or other real estate which the parties own. An art or antique appraiser can value tangible items for purposes of equitable distribution. Appraisers who specialize in specific property, such as train collections, gun collections, stamp collections, or the like, can provide invaluable assistance when the parties have unusual items that need to be valued.
When there are issues concerning children, having input from a social worker, psychologist or other child specialist can be invaluable. Here is yet another expert that the parties can retain jointly, with input from the mediator, to help them resolve custodial and parenting issues.
In mediation, the joint expert is not retained to go to court. As a result, the expert makes recommendations based on their review of pertinent information and uses their expertise to make recommendations for settlement. The joint expert in a mediation does not advocate for either party and their role is not to go to court — even if the mediation process breaks down. Properly used, joint experts can be invaluable in helping the mediator faciliate fair and reasonable agreements.
For more information about mediation, contact our office at 609.951.2222.