Can Husband Be Forced to Obtain a Separate Home Appraisal?
In a recent case called Kraemer v. Kraemer, the court confirmed two important procedural points relating to property valuation:
- The divorcing spouse who “owns” or controls an asset has the primary obligation to obtain an accurate valuation of it; and
- In the event of a dispute as to an asset’s value, each spouse may be obliged to get a separate expert appraisal.
The couple had been married for almost 15 years and had three children. In the course of their divorce proceedings, they ended up asking the court to help with their disagreement over the proper value of the matrimonial home they previously shared.
The wife had had it formally appraised at $735,000. In contrast, the husband claimed it was worth $800,000, but offered no evidence to support that figure. He resisted getting an expert appraisal of his own.
To this last point, the court replied:
Mr. Kraemer takes the position that he cannot be required to value the home and, essentially, the value will be decided when the house is sold. In my view, he is wrong in that position.
Indeed, the husband’s (incorrect) position overlooked the core principles that in Family Law proceedings:
- Each party just take disclosure “very seriously”, and is duty-bound to provide meaningful disclosure of asset values.
- Each spouse has an obligation to provide credible, realistic values, including independent valuations – not a “guess” or a “fictional amount”.
- A failure to provide credible evidence to support a value may result in a less-advantageous value being assigned by the court.
On the issue of which spouse is responsible for obtaining an accurate valuation: The primary responsibility for establishing an asset’s accurate value on the valuation date lies with the spouse who “owns” or controls it. This is particularly true if that spouse makes an assertion in his or her filed affidavit about the asset’s value. The spouse then has the burden of proving the stated value is correct; this may require the input of an expert. If the other spouse does not agree to the value proposed, then he or she can respond with a valuation from a different expert entirely.
Having reasoned this way, the court found that the husband in this case was obliged by law to hire his own expert to provide a separate, accurate valuation of the matrimonial home. The court also declined the husband’s requires to treat the latest valuation as a shared expense; it noted that the wife had already paid for her own valuation, so the overall fees for both appraisals would effectively be split between them.
For the full text of the decision, see:
Kraemer v. Kraemer, 2019
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