An Argument For Hiring Experts in Your Divorce Case

There is an old saying in the courthouse hallways: "What do you think?" "What do you know?" and "What can you prove?"

The only thing of relevance in a courtroom is "What can you prove?" Most people who aren't expert Florida divorce lawyers are unfamiliar with the laws of evidence to be applied in their family law case. When it comes to dividing assets and proving a need for alimony, you have a real handicap in the courtroom without the help of an expert Tampa family law attorney. Recently, I had a case where the parties were arguing over furnishings in the home. The husband was a doctor who had remarried his second wife (my client). They had set about furnishing their five thousand square foot home in a prestigious part of Tampa.

The Wife had purchased 10 rooms of furniture including all electronic equipment. The sound system alone costs in excess of $10,000.00. Receipts for the furnishings showed cost in excess of sixty-five thousand dollars. Shortly after furnishing their home, however, the parties decided to divorce.

The first thing a Florida family law judge does at trial, assuming there are no children, is divide all of the martial assets and liabilities. They require the parties' divorce lawyer to prepare an Equitable Distribution Chart. A sample Equitable Distribution Chart might look like this:

ASSET

VALUE

WIFE

HUSBAND

Marital Home

$1,000,000.00

$500,000.00

$500,000.00

IRA Husband's

$ 50,000.00

$ 50,000.00

IRA Wife's

$ 20,000.00

$ 20,000.00

Furnishings

$ 75,000.00

$ 75,000.00

TOTAL

$595,000.00

$550,000.00

Equalizing Payment $595,000.00 - $550,000.00 = $45,000.00.

Wife must pay Husband ½ = $22,500.00 to equalize the Chart.

That is to say that if the Wife is awarded all of the furnishings then in order to have an equal division, she must pay the Husband $22,500.00.

But, what if the furnishings, even though just purchased for $75,000.00, are really only worth $6,000.00? In fact, after the Wife hired a personal property appraiser who appraised the property in the case, she discovered that second hand furniture is appraised at only pennies on the dollar.

Now, the Equitable Distribution Chart would look like this:

ASSET

VALUE

WIFE

HUSBAND

Marital Home

$1,000,000.00

$500,000.00

$500,000.00

IRA (H)

$ 50,000.00

$ 50,000.00

IRA (W)

$ 20,000.00

$ 20,000.00

Furnishings

$ 6,000.00

$ 6,000.00

TOTAL

$526,000.00

$550,000.00

Equalizing Payment $550,000.00 - $526,000.00 = $24,000.00.

½ = $12,000.00.

The Husband must pay the Wife $12,000 to even the Distribution. So, for spending a couple of hundred dollars on a Personal Property Expert, the Wife saved over $34,000.00.

Quite a bargain!

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