Do I Need an Appraiser in My Divorce?
An important step in any New Jersey divorce is the valuation of the couple’s assets. The value assigned to the property owned jointly by a married couple, sometimes known as the “marital estate,” will guide the judge’s decisions on how that estate will be divided between the spouses. The marital estate is often comprised of far more than just the house that the couple owned. In order to have an accurate understanding of the value of shared marital assets, it is critical to have an accurate valuation for each of these assets. Learn more about whether you need to hire an appraiser during your New Jersey divorce and contact an experienced New Jersey divorce attorney with any questions.
Real estate should receive a professional appraisal
The single most valuable asset that most couples own is a house or some other form of real estate. Knowing exactly what your home is worth is very important when making decisions about how you will divide the property and debts you share with a spouse. In the current real estate market, your home may have a very different value than when you purchased or refinanced your home years before your split. It is therefore necessary to obtain a professional assessment of its value. The appraiser will include such factors as the recent average sale price of homes in the area, the size and type of home, the condition, the value of any fixtures, and the cost of any necessary repairs. When this potential sale value is combined with any amount still owed on the home’s mortgage, you’ll have the home’s value for purposes of dividing marital assets.
Seek professional guidance on high-value household items and businesses
Many couples will have assets other than a home that should be appraised by an expert. Household objects, such as home furniture, clothing, or appliances, do not require professional appraisal unless they are particularly high in value. For example, it is important to have a professional appraisal of any artwork or antiques that you and your spouse have collected, or high-value jewelry that you have exchanged as gifts. Items with clearly determinable market values, such as cars or trucks, probably don’t need to be professionally appraised unless they are particularly rare.
If you or your spouse owns a business, it is important to have that business appraised. Determining the value of a business involves weighing numerous complex factors, such as average income for the business, the business’ goodwill in the market or community, and the value of any assets or debts possessed by the business. If you have not been involved in the operation of the business during the marriage, it is especially important to get a professional assessment of its value to ensure that your spouse does not misrepresent its worth to your disadvantage.
Does each spouse need an independent appraisal?
Obtaining a professional’s opinion on the value of assets constituting a couple’s marital property may serve to quell disputes between the couple over the value of shared items. However, some couples have reached such a level of discord that they are unable to agree even on whether outside experts can be trusted to provide accurate valuations of assets. If you have reason to believe that an appraiser provided a valuation of an important asset that grossly misrepresents the asset’s true value, it may be worthwhile to hire an independent appraiser and allow the court to weigh the competing appraisals.
Some divorces might not require official property appraisal by an expert
Some couples do not need the help of a professional appraiser when valuing and dividing marital property. When spouses share few high-value assets, they may be able to determine between themselves which assets each wants to retain without a court’s intervention. If sentiment is the primary value of a majority of a couple’s assets, an appraiser’s help may not be necessary.
While it may seem petty or too expensive to hire an appraiser during a divorce, keep in mind that failing to obtain an appraisal of valuable possessions could result in an unfair outcome. If you don’t know the true value of each item, you’re less likely to divide the assets equitably, and you could lose out on thousands or tens of thousands of dollars worth of your own property.
If you’re considering filing for divorce in New Jersey, contact the seasoned and effective Union family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro for a consultation.