What happens if the parties in a divorce cannot agree on the value of their assets?
Normally, the court is going to divide the marital assets and liabilities so the parties have an equal distribution of those marital assets and liabilities.
Case law is very clear that if the court decides to make an unequal distribution of the assets and liabilities there has to be a compelling reason. Therefore, it is very easy for many lawyers to prepare an equitable distribution worksheet identifying the asset, placing a value on it, and making an equal distribution of those assets. Since we know the court generally equally divides the assets and debts, it is almost a mathematical calculation that one can make in reaching an equitable distribution. Sometimes, the only contested issue would be the value of the asset. In those instances, sometimes an appraiser can be hired.
Keep in mind that the judge is not an appraiser and that if both parties come to court with differing opinions as to value, they are essentially asking a judge – who has no appraisal expertise – to make a judgment on the value of an asset. This is not a wise decision.
Accordingly, it is generally in the best interest of the parties that the attorneys work very diligently to reach an agreement with regard to the equitable distribution of marital assets and liabilities so that the court can focus its attention on more important items such as time-sharing and alimony, both of which are highly contested matters.