Rebuttal Experts in a Connecticut Divorce

This Week’s Blog by Christopher J. DeMattie

What Is A Rebuttal Expert?

Generally, in a Connecticut divorce matter, a rebuttal expert is an individual whom you hire to challenge the opinions of your spouse’s expert.  For example, the individual’s field of expertise could be in the following areas: (a) real estate valuation, (b) business valuation, (c) tax, (d) earning capacity, (e) alcoholism, (f) coercive control, (g) child development, or (h) mental health.

What Are The Duties Of A Rebuttal Expert?

A rebuttal expert could be hired to assist in a number of roles.  The engagement could also evolve as your matter progresses.  The two major roles are: (a) consulting and (b) challenging the opinion of a competing expert.

In the consulting role, the rebuttal expert could assist you with your case in a number of ways.  First, the expert could assist you and your attorneys with developing a strategy.  For example, you could hire a tax lawyer or accountant to help analyze the tax impact of certain assets you could receive as part of the division or property, or you could hire a real estate appraiser to determine if your spouse’s stated value of the marital residence conforms to the actual fair market value of the property. Second, the rebuttal expert could assist with critiquing the report and analysis of your spouse’s expert.  For example, if your spouse disclosed an expert who issued a report concluding he or she was subjected to coercive control, your rebuttal expert would assist in analyzing the report to determine if the proper forensic steps were taken to support the conclusion.  Further, a rebuttal expert could help you and your attorneys develop questions for the deposition or cross-examination of your spouse’s expert to highlight the weaknesses in that expert’s opinion.

In the challenging role, your rebuttal expert follows the proper protocols in his or her field and provides a formal opinion on the same subject matter as your spouse’s expert.  As stated above, the opinion could be: (a) the fair market value of the marital residence in Greenwich is $4,000,000, (b) your spouse has an earning capacity of $250,000, or (c) is it in your children’s best interest to relocate out of the state of Connecticut. After your expert reaches an opinion, you must formally disclose that person in advance of trial in accordance with the rules of practice or Court Orders.

Sometimes, your rebuttal expert could begin as a consultant, but as your case progresses you formally disclose your rebuttal expert and have this person issue a formal report and potentially testify at trial.  It then becomes “a battle of the experts.”

When Would I Need A Rebuttal Expert?

In some matters at Broder & Orland LLC we hire a rebuttal expert as soon as a divorce is filed. It may be necessary to help tailor a specific strategy for your case, especially if a unique issue is identified early on. In other matters, we do not hire a rebuttal expert until after your spouse formally discloses his or her expert.  Even then, the engagement of your rebuttal expert could be short if your expert agrees with the opinion of your spouse’s expert.  Further, sometimes your spouse’s expert and your rebuttal expert could communicate (only with you and your spouse’s consent), and they could agree on an opinion for settlement purposes.  In some matters, experts play a pivotal role in settlement.

At Broder & Orland LLC our team approach extends to the experts we assemble on a case-by-case basis. In cases involving high net worth individuals, we routinely work with business valuation experts, financial experts and forensic accountants. In cases involving custody, visitation and parenting plans, we often work with private investigators, parenting coordinators, psychiatrists, therapists and social workers.  By partnering with these professionals, we are sure to obtain a clear understanding of the specific issues of each case. This is true, for example, in a divorce involving a complex business valuation, drug and alcohol abuse by a parent, or custody considerations for a special needs child.