How Not to Resolve a Marital Property Valuation Dispute

Valuations. There are experts who appraise marital assets for divorce cases.

And sometimes the divorcing spouses each have a by-the-seat-of-the-pants valuation of their own.

And, sometimes, the valuations of the two experts or spouses, as the case may be, are dramatically different.

And so it is in Husband’s and Wife’s divorce. The parties own a liquor store business.

Husband’s expert values the business at $256,000.

But, according to Wife, Husband told a third party that the business is worth $600,000, and that a third party had offered that much for the business.

A very substantial discrepancy between the parties’ valuations.

How to resolve a dispute over valuations?

Well, the trial court presiding over this case apparently does what spouses themselves often do …

The time-honored approach of “let’s split the difference”.

This solution offers a tantalizingly simple elegance, is quick and free, avoiding what both spouses often agree they want to avoid: delay and added expense. And it chips away at the discrepancy between the competing valuations.

But while this approach often satisfies the parties themselves, a Florida appellate court reverses this approach on appeal.

Ruling that a trial court’s valuation must be based on “competent evidence” or support. Not the flipping of a coin or “splitting the difference”.

So, in valuation disputes where there is a big difference between the parties’ respective valuations, there will likely need to be a third valuation for a trial court to arrive at an ultimate valuation that can withstand appeal.

Or a settlement.

Read more in this Florida appellate court opinion.