Types of Experts

In a previous blog, we talked about different classes of experts (Joint, Hired Gun, Review) employed in family law cases.  In this blog, we will talk about the different “types” of experts we use in family law. 

Forensic Accountant

Forensic accounting is a specialty practice area of accounting that is used in litigation.  Forensic accountants are used in family law to perform tracings for separate and community property, to investigate Family Code Section 2640 reimbursement claims, Moore/Marsden calculations,  to analyze/characterize stock options, and other issues which require an “investigation” of accounting issues.

What separates forensic accountant from regular accountants is specialized training focused on investigation as well as the expectation that the outcome of their investigation will result in the preparation of reports suitable to serve as evidence in a court of law.


Typically, a CPA will be hired to provide an opinion about a party’s income available to pay support or other “traditional” accounting tasks.  This commonly comes up when a party is self-employed so their income is not straight-forward. This is accomplished by reviewing the party’s financial records, bank statements, expenses reports, etc.  A CPA’s responsibility in a case might also include providing an opinion on the tax implications of various family law scenarios.

Vocational Evaluator

We have blogged many times about vocational evaluators.  This expert is hired when one party believes the other party is purposely unemployed or underemployed.  This expert performs vocation testing and comes to conclusions about a party’s ability to find employment and the opportunity for that employment in the community.  This is used by a party as evidence in support of imputing an earning ability to the other party for support purposes.

Child Custody

There are several different experts involved in child custody matters.  The two most common are mediators and child custody evaluators.  Child custody mediators are hired to assist the parties in coming to an agreement on child custody related issues.  In San Diego County, if no agreement is reached, the mediator is tasked with preparing a reports and set of recommendations for the Court to consider. (All counties in California have a specific procedure

Child custody evaluators are used to perform an in-depth investigation of the child custody issues in a case.  In contrast to the mediator, an evaluator does not attempt to facilitate an agreement between the parties.  Rather, the evaluator performs testing, interviews, and analysis in order to generate a report and set of recommendations for the Court to consider.

Property Valuation/Appraiser

Property valuators or appraisers come in many different shapes and sizes depending on what they are valuing.  Their job is to use the experience and expertise to provide the court and the parties with and opinion as to the value of a specific asset(s).

These assets include homes, cars, businesses, art, furniture, antiques, jewelry, etc.  Basically, anything of value (no matter how nominal) can be appraised by an expert.

Retirement Plan Experts

These experts are typically hired after a case is done to prepare the orders necessary to divide community property retirement accounts.  These include pensions, 401(k) accounts, 403(b), and 457 accounts.  These experts are generally hired jointly by the parties and are agreed upon as part of the Judgment.

This list is not exhaustive by any means.  For example, we recently hired an expert in mold remediation because that was an issue present in that case.  Every case is different, but the experts listed above are most common “types” of experts you will find in family law cases.

Feel free to contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding the types of experts in family law cases. Nancy J. Bickford is the only Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) in San Diego County who is also a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.




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