One of the most difficult aspects of Florida divorces is dividing the couple’s assets. Divorcing couples are free to negotiate a division of their assets, but when negotiation fails, the court must step in. For couples with substantial assets, a professional appraiser may be required to assist in the property valuation and division process.
Valuing the homestead
For most couples, including wealth couples, the family home is the couple’s most valuable asset. In order to divide the marital estate fairly and equitably, the homestead’s fair market value must be determined. This is where a professional appraiser can be extremely helpful.
No decisions on dividing the marital estate can be made until the value of the family home is determined. A professional appraiser will follow the procedures for all appraisals as they are set forth in the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP). In most cases, a single appraiser is hired to provide an opinion on the home’s fair market value. If the parties cannot agree on a single appraiser, each party may retain its own expert. Each appraiser’s job will be the same: providing an opinion on the fair market value of the house.
The appraisal usually involves three steps: an initial inspection during which the appraiser will take measurements and photographs and observe the overall condition and size of the home. The appraiser will next search real property records for sales of comparable homes to obtain a range of sale prices. When this comparison is completed, the appraiser will make adjustments for differences between the comparables and the subject house. When all three phases have been completed, the appraiser will prepare a report setting forth an estimate of fair market value.
Valuing other assets
If a couple owns a number of valuable assets, such as paintings, antiques, and jewelry, these assets can be valued in a similar process. For many valuable assets, specialty appraisers will be required.
Anyone facing a potential divorce in which a number of valuable assets will be allocated to each of the spouses, a professional appraiser can provide significant assistance and may be able to prevent contentious disagreements from becoming emotionally fraught fights. A consultation with an experienced divorce attorney can offer useful guidance about retaining and using appraisers.