Valuing Property as Part of Your Divorce Case

Most divorces include the division of property.  In some cases, especially those with limited assets, this can be a very simple, straightforward process.  However, in cases involving complex assets, especially those of high-value, the process can be much more complicated.  In these more complicated cases, it may be necessary to hire experts and obtain formal appraisals.    

One of the most important assets for most couples is the marital home.  Unless the parties are fairly certain of the value of the home (due to recent purchase or appraisal) it is often advisable to get the house value determined by a experienced residential appraiser.  This expert can provide the value of the house.  Then, the parties’ attorneys can use this information to help determine how the house (or the house’s equity) should be divided between the parties.

Personal property also has to be valued.  In some cases, the parties are able to agree on the value of some of the property.  Things like furniture, clothing, and kitchen appliances are typically not worth the cost of hiring an expert for appraisal.  That said, if personal property such as jewelry, antiques, or valuable artwork are part of the marital property, it may be in the parties’ best interest to have the property appraised by a trained professional.

If either party owns a business, the value of the business will almost certainly be important in the division of marital property.  Depending on the type and presumed value of the business, it will probably be necessary to hire an expert in valuing the type of business the party owns.

When the value of appraised property has been determined, it can be used in a couple ways.  First, the appraised values can be used for negotiations between the parties.  Second, the values can be used to show the court (or a mediator or arbitrator) the value of the assets, and thus how the property should be divided between the parties.

Sometimes, only one party hires an expert to value the property.  Other times both parties hire experts, and then the two valuations are used by the parties to negotiate a division of property.  In some cases, both parties agree in advance to use a qualified expert’s valuation, and the parties hire the expert jointly.

Another option for parties that do not want to go through the expense of hiring experts, and who do not have a strong desire to keep the property they are seeking to have valued, is to sell the property.  (This should not be done without consulting with a family law attorney about the specifics of your case.)   For example, in cases where neither party wants to keep the marital home after the divorce is final, the parties can choose to sell the home prior to the dissolution being finalized and divide the proceeds (or the leftover debt, as the circumstances may require).

If you are facing a divorce and have questions about which of your assets to have appraised, or how the value of your assets might change the outcome of your division of assets, please contact us today.  We are Seattle area attorneys prepared to help our clients with every stage of the appraisal process.

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