Any case I handle as a New Jersey Divorce Attorney that involves a self-employed person requires a close analysis. First, I learn as much as I can about what type of business my client is running. Standard questions include, “how many employees do you have?” and “what was your gross and net income last year?” If I determine that this business to be a serious entity, I then explain that a forensic accountant shall likely become involved in the case.
First, they are responsible to place a “value” on the business, as the other spouse most likely has a claim for money in connection with the business. Second, I explain that the accountant shall also conduct a “true income analysis.” As we all know, a self-employed person may take certain tax deductions that are totally legitimate pursuant to the Internal Revenue Service’s regulations. However, a forensic accountant shall “back in” this “hidden” income for support purposes.
The forensic accountant shall be court ordered as a joint expert. While I rarely recommend it, sometimes each party hires their own accountant. We then have a “battle of the experts.”
While divorce lawyers usually choose their experts, the Superior Court of New Jersey has the innate authority to choose expert witnesses. Additionally, the Superior Court can order which of the divorcing parties is enabled to create the scope of the expert witness’s assignment. If the Superior Court does indeed choose to select its own expert witness for a divorcing couple, neither of the divorcing parties is bound by the report of the expert. Rule 5:3-3(d) captures this idea, “experts appointed hereunder may be selected by the mutual agreement of the parties or independently by the court. The court shall establish the scope of the expert's assignment in the order of appointment. Neither party shall be bound by the report of the expert so appointed.”
(c) Economic Experts. Whenever the court concludes that disposition of an economic issue will be assisted by expert opinion, it may in the same manner as provided in Paragraph (a) of this rule appoint an expert to appraise the value of any property or to report and recommend as to any other issue, and may further order any person or entity to produce documents or to make available for inspection any information or property, which is not privileged, that the court determines is necessary to aid the expert in rendering an opinion.
If you are self employed and unhappy in your marriage, please feel free to contact this New Jersey Divorce Lawyer to discuss this process in further detail.