Keeping Divorce Case Costs Down Can Prove Costly

There are many ways that parties and/or conscientious counsel can try to keep costs down in divorce cases in family court (among others). Unfortunately, the legal system often doesn’t make it easy.

And may punish you. Regrettably, economizing can turn out to be very expensive.

The above observations apply in countless situations in divorce courts (and others) throughout Florida, New York, New Jersey (these I can speak to from personal experience). Likely, the world.

Here’s yet another example that just caught my attention.

Husband and Wife are working toward an amicable, uncontested divorce.

They own a marital business.

Husband and Wife agree on a fair market value for the business of $60,000. It’s not clear how they arrive at that number.

But that number underlies their property division, marital settlement agreement and final judgment of divorce.

Several months later, Wife seeks to throw out all three.

She now asserts that the business was worth $172,000, rather than $60,000. A difference of $112,000, half of which, presumably, would be allocated to Wife.

How does Wife arrive at that $172,000 value?

Wife hires an appraiser to perform a limited, qualified valuation – after the fact.

What’s that?

In a nutshell, a limited, qualified appraisal is performed based on strictly limited documentation and inputs.


Such documentation and inputs are often within the sole control of one spouse, and often may only be obtained through what is called the discovery process in the divorce court case. (Less documentation and inputs requires less expert review and analysis.)

In amicable cases, discovery may be sharply curtailed to contain costs and because there is trust.

In adversarial, contested cases, even where full discovery is desired by the spouse with less knowledge of the finances, it may nonetheless be limited because of the cost in both legal fees and experts’ fees of pursuing it from a spouse who is fully committed to avoiding full disclosure and who likely has the resources to stonewall, dodge, delay, and otherwise drive up the cost and increase delay as much as possible.

In this particular case, it is likely that timely discovery was voluntarily limited. And then, after Wife’s window of opportunity closed (there are rules that bar going back after the fact to do what you could have and should have done at an earlier time), Wife realized she “got took”.

And, likely because of limited information as well as limited financial resources, all Wife could obtain at that point was a limited, qualified valuation. And that just wasn’t good enough to persuade a court to set aside a previously agreed upon valuation, however arrived at.

If Wife’s change of heart was right on, she took a beating in the divorce property division.

She certainly saved legal fees up front by not pursuing discovery timely. And she certainly saved experts’ fees by obtaining only a limited or qualified valuation.

Hopefully, Wife saved enough money in the original case to offset the loss of her half of the difference between the two valuations. (Of course, the qualified valuation may have been low too. That will never be known for certain now.)

Read more in this Business Valuation Resources LLC newsletter article: More problems using preliminary valuations in divorce