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Appraising for Divorce Settlement / Litigation

by Administrator on Apr 20, 2015 Litigation / Expert 792 Views

While appraisers are in most circumstances seeking market value, usually we are using the same definition of value the purpose of the appraisal can be radically different.  In some cases the appraisals are for civil litigation, condemnation, contract disputes, deficiency judgement disputes, probate, bankruptcy and in some cases the appraisals are for a divorce.

Appraising real estate for divorces is at times one of the most contentious of the lot since it is a husband, wife, attorneys and usually their families who can't stand to be in the same room together for 5 minutes without becoming emotional.  If you have done this kind of work before you know that the yelling, screaming and unruly gestures sometimes spill into waiting rooms, hallways and elevators.  While you want to be there to defend your appraisal report in court the circus atmosphere that develops can be a challenge.

When you are working on a divorce case and there is little or no animosity remaining between the parties the appraisal just becomes what it is supposed to be, a way to get to the true value of the marital assets.  When the divorce is contentious the appraisals become a way for the parties to stake out high or low value claims and if there is any difference between the value opinions then the court may have to order a third appraisal report. 

In some divorce cases one party may attempt to manipulate the value of the real property by not renewing leases and in some cases by actually getting rid of all of the tenants.  It's one of those "I'll take the pain of shooting myself in the foot to reduce the value of the real estate assets for settlement" scenarios. 

Appraisers in those cases consider potential gross income but they also consider rent up loss so there can be value lost due to these antics.  It's like giving away your car so that your wife can't get half, it works but at what price?

Divorce cases are not like bankruptcy, deficiency, civil suits or condemnation.  Both parties are usually trying to spend the least amount of money that they can to build their best cases.  The appraiser can get multiple requests for appraisal modifications and at every turn be put in a situation that makes it look like reasonable compensation is a burden to the Client.  Then the trial date is set and the Client is upset that you want compensation for your court time.

It's my opinion that the best way to deal with payment in a divorce case is by simply charging a flat fee that is all-inclusive.  There may be times that you do well because the divorce settles without you having to go to court, but for the ones that do go the distance you don't have to feel like you are continually charging more and more for your services, to the point that you don't want to charge anymore because you feel bad.  Appraisers shouldn't have to feel bad about being compensated for their time in court, for us it's the most stressful part of our work.

Working on a divorce appraisal assignment is difficult because you get drawn into the "us versus them" mentality.  Attorneys are fiercely biased toward the viewpoint of their client and that is usually contrary to how an objective and unbiased appraiser wants to feel about their work.  So as an appraiser you either keep hold of your professional ethics, and resist the push and pull of the parties, or you will become biased and your value opinion will be flawed by your bias. 

For more appraisal information contact Glenn Rigdon MA, MRICS, ASA is a Las Vegas / Henderson Nevada based appraiser who can be contacted via email or via his business website Appraiser Las Vegas  (, or you can also click on “Contact Us” on the home page of this website or visit my public profile at LinkedIn at

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