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Why only Fools like me should do Divorce Appraisals

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Terrel L. Shields

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Joined
May 2, 2002
Professional Status
Certified General Appraiser
State
Arkansas
The appraiser herein by reason of this appraisal is not required to give further consultation, testimony, or be in attendance in court with reference to the property in question unless arrangements have been previously made.
or similar in Fannie mae certification.

Tons of us have just such a disclaimer in our Limiting Conditions. And it is not worth the paper it is printed on. I had a trip I have been planning for 2 months. Was to leave Tuesday. Friday before, after 6pm, knock knock. Got handed a subpeona to be in court 10 am Thursday for testimony in a divorce.

I had only agreed to appraise the property because both claimed they were agreeable to whatever value I set and both would hire me. I got a check for 1/2 from each. And even after the appraisal, they went to a local friend/realtor for him to look it over, and he said it was right on what he had already told them, and that was to be that.

Nevertheless, one party decided they wanted an additional $50K from the place. No one had contacted me since I did the report about a year ago.

All this stuff about pre-trial preparation is nonsense except in a clearly adversarial situation. If you absolutely know it is going to court you are better off. You might get, gee...., ONE even THREE weeks notice instead THREE DAYS. We need to educate a few divorce lawyers about LEAD TIME. This is not arm waving stuff we can pop off the top of our heads.

Secondly, as co-clients, I cannot accept either party as a client at this point and be compensated as an expert witness. Clearly I would have a conflict of interest to take either side, although in this case, I am being subpoenaed by the defendant. I suppose I can ask the judge to certify me as an non-aligned expert witness and bill both. But to what point? Neither are likely to pay. So I go as a regular witness to fact and without preparation with either side.

I have done my last appraisal involving divorce. (as if that is possible, since I have had mortgage appraisals used as evidence in court and have been asked to testify) Otherwise, I see no alternative but to charge $3,000 and up to do a divorce appraisal. I am easily out $500+ over the trip which cannot be duplicated, at least until next year. I had worked my self into a lather this week to get ahead of the game, and now I will have a slow week to spend without pay preparing for a trial that is going to take about 10 minutes of my time. And I lose two days or more with a 50/50 chance it will settle about 10 minutes until 10 am.

ter
 

Red Blumenstock

Sophomore Member
Joined
Jan 16, 2002
Professional Status
Certified General Appraiser
State
Florida
Ter,

In some states, an expert witness cannot be subpoenaed. I did a lot of legal work (including many divorces) and only once was I ever issued a subpoena. I called the attorney at that time and advised that I would appear only at my fee, which was an hourly fee from portal to portal. He agreed and I appeared and collected a handsome fee, not the $15.00 witness fee. On two other occasions, I advised that I would be unable to appear even if a subpoena was issued and agreed to a video deposition, again at my hourly fee, from portal to portal.

You don't have to simply give up your life to satisfy a last minute change of mind on the part of one of the parties or their attorney.

Red
 

Terrel L. Shields

Thread Starter
Elite Member
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Joined
May 2, 2002
Professional Status
Certified General Appraiser
State
Arkansas
Unfortunately my regular atty has flown off to Costa Rica and won't be back for another week. I have been unable to check my options yet.
 

Mountain Man

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Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Professional Status
Certified General Appraiser
State
Georgia
Agree with Red, been subpoenaed before as a witness. Called the attorney and told them that I was going to be out of town, so if the wanted me there, they would need to re-schedule. And if they wanted professional testimony, my rate is $X per hour and I need 2 weeks to prepare. The end result is that it was rescheduled, and they paid the hourly rate. They maybe are just trying and get you to do it for a measly witness fee.
 

Terrel L. Shields

Thread Starter
Elite Member
Gold Supporting Member
Joined
May 2, 2002
Professional Status
Certified General Appraiser
State
Arkansas
I still think I have a conflict of interest to accept either party as client with both being intended users and clients. I cannot now be working for 1/2 a client.
 

Mountain Man

Elite Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Professional Status
Certified General Appraiser
State
Georgia
Well, there maybe is your answer to the attorney.
 

Larry Lyke

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 2, 2002
Ter --

Haven't you called the person who issued the subpoena and asked them what to H--- they are up to! Then, insert quickly that "I'm going on a pre-planned vacation next week."

They will rescheduled it to fit your schedule if they want you to appear or make other efforts to obtain your testimony. It's not life or death. Nothing is.

I don't see any conflict of interest, The attorney will enter the stipulations before he questions you and object on cross-examation.

Ask him why he didn't include your $400-an-hour-3-hour-minimum fee with the subpoeana -- 'after all, I do intend to be paid in advance.'

Sometimes the attorneys are too cute by half. It's called disrespect. Their profession is more important -- Not when they need you, it ain't!
 

lafferty

Sophomore Member
Joined
Jan 16, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Tennessee
I too was served to testify one Friday night for a trial on Monday morning. Monday a.m. I called the attorney who did it and called the court clerk explaining that I would not be there without being paid for my time. The judge said he would send the law after me, and I said fine - I just leave town for a while.
Got a phone call about 9:30 saying I could stay home, and the deputies were not on their way. I seems they settled. Too bad, I wanted the money.
Dave
 

Steve Owen

Elite Member
Joined
Jan 16, 2002
Professional Status
Certified General Appraiser
State
Missouri
Terrel: I too try to avoid divorce work. I did one similar to the circumstances you described once. However, I made the husband my client and the wife an intended user. Seems to me that dual clientship is not a good idea in this circumstance.

They never repealed the 13th amendment. No one can force you to work for free. The last time I got called to court when I had other plans, I just called the lawyer and told him so. It got rescheduled - seems to me like that should be your first point of attack (along with telling them what the fee will be if they don't reschedule).
 

Restrain

Elite Member
Joined
Jan 22, 2002
Professional Status
Certified General Appraiser
State
Florida
Call the attorney and advise him that your hourly fee is $X plus $5000 for the cost of the missed vacation. That should get his attention.

Roger
 
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