JOINTLY RETAINED EXPERT


Forensic experts may be used to appraise the value of assets or businesses, to calculate income available for support, or to determine the parties’ marital lifestyle.

Accountants may be retained jointly by the parties and/or their attorneys, by mutual agreement, or appointed by the court. In theory, regardless of who retains their services, evaluators are neutral third parties who provide the parties and/or the court with reports based upon their observations and their expertise.

Your initial instinct may be hire an accountant to whom your spouse has not consented. While it is often appropriate to retain experts individually, there are important considerations to discuss when deliberating on the issue of jointly or individually retained experts. First, you must consider the risk of your adversary’s attack on the expert’s perceived bias and lack of objectivity flowing from the unilateral paid nature of their services (i.e., the hired-gun syndrome). Second, there is a significant added financial benefit of a joint arrangement. The costs of joint experts may be equally shared between you and your spouse.  At times you may be able to negotiate that your spouse absorbs the total cost or at least provides for the initial deposit for the work to be done.  Often, the parties stipulate that payment is made without prejudice to a possible reallocation further down the litigation trail, usually at the time of settlement or trial.

If the parties cannot agree to a joint accountant and the court deems, in its discretion, that such an evaluation is necessary to achieve a fair resolution of the case, the court may designate an accountant.

A jointly retained accountant works for both parties. He/she may make middle-of-the-road judgment calls that favor neither party. The result will usually be a fair and reasonable determination that will be acceptable, but not totally pleasing, to either party.


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