Chapter 13 – Reporting Findings and Testifying

Standard

After the number crunching is complete, the results are assembled into a report the attorneys and the court can understand. The expert must assume that the readers of the report have no accounting or financial background. The report must be easy to understand, with exhibits and attachments supporting the opinions set forth in the report.

The Expert’s Report

In most cases, the work of the financial expert will be summarized in a written report, with selected supporting documentation attached. Occasionally a written report will not be produced, but this is not recommended. The financial issues can be complicated, and it is almost always beneficial to have the facts laid out on paper so the attorney and the judge have a roadmap of the issues.

There is no standard format for a report on a lifestyle analysis. However, it is common for experts to produce large spreadsheets detailing transactions, along with a letter report that simply states certain totals for expenditures or budgets. This is not the best way to report on the findings of a lifestyle analysis because it is difficult for the attorneys and the judge to use. It is nearly impossible for them to consider the impact of eliminating or reducing certain categories of expenditures because the gigantic spreadsheet is unwieldy. A better written report presents summaries of various categories, with appropriate detail attached in the event that a user of the report needs to examine detail and figure certain adjustments.

Report Format

The key concern in writing a report in a family law case is that it is well organized and understandable by people who have no accounting or financial background. In states that adhere to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, experts should refer to Rule 26(a)(2), which sets out the requirements for disclosure of expert testimony. This rule says that an expert witness must provide a signed, written report that includes:

  • A complete statement of all opinions the witness will express and the basis and reasons for them
  • The facts or data considered by the witness in forming them
  • Any exhibits that will be used to summarize or support them
  • The witness’s qualifications, including a list of all publications authored in the previous ten years
  • A list of all other cases in which, during the previous four years, the witness testified as an expert at trial or by deposition
  • A statement of the compensation to be paid for the study and testimony in the case

Even though the expert’s report should be written based on the work, observations, and opinions of the expert, it is important to determine what the attorney hopes will be in the report. Presumably, the attorney and client retain an expert for a specific purpose, which is to provide opinions on certain issues. The expert should know at the outset of the engagement the topics on which the attorney and client would like opinions rendered.

Also included in this chapter:

Presenting the Numbers
Reasonable Certainty
Presenting Negative Issues
Draft Reports
Using the Lifestyle Analysis
Proving Intent
Testifying at Deposition and Trial
Conclusion