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The Times reports that although the nation's divorce rate is declining - from 50% of all marriages to only 43% in the past decade - divorce in the state of New York jumped 9% in the first half on 1996, to 29,259. Because there is a great deal of wealth in New York, the divorces, and their subsequent settlements are becoming more and more complex, and with the increased complexity comes an increase in the number of expert witnesses employed to help sort out assets and entitlement of the soon-to-be-ex-spouses.
The Times reports that while demand for experts is increasing around the country, the demand for experts in fields including appraisals, forensic accounting, pension evaluation and psychiatry is booming in New York City.
The Times noted forensic accountants are hired by soon-to-be-divorcees to analyze the books of privately held corporations and family businesses and ferret out their spouses' hidden assets. The story also detailed how one expert forensic accountant hired by the wife found some handwritten notations on a check that led him to uncover the reason the husband was totally broke -- he had transferred all his money to a girlfriend.
Appraisers are needed to assess real estate, antiques, artwork, china and silver. In addition to the value of goodwill in a professional practice, New York appellate courts have said that a very license to practice a profession has intrinsic value that can be divided up in a divorce. One firm which employs 10 art appraisers estimated that 25% of its appraisal work is the result of marital cases, at rates of $300 per hour in some matters.
The future value of pensions, now taken into account in divorce, has become huge, even for such civil servants as police and firemen. Who does the valuation? An actuary or pension expert.
Psychiatrists are being sought to peruse medical and psychiatric records, to determine marital abuse, substance abuse and psychological problems in order to determine not only custody issues, but is at fault in the divorce, and how much of the common estate each spouse deserves. Forensic psychiatrists charge $200 - $350 an hour.
Attorneys have always been able to benefit from divorce cases in which a great deal of money is at stake; now expert witnesses and consultants, particularly in states like New York, which are not community property states, are profiting as well. The expert's fee for the forensic accountant in the case described above in which he discovered the reason for the husband's lack of assets -- $274,970.87, according to the Times.
* The above material was excerpted, modified or otherwise prepared by the 'Lectric Law Library from a summary of a 4/4/97 NY Times pg A-16 story by Expert Pages whose website's at www.expertpages.com
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