In order to achieve a truly fair property division settlement, you and your spouse have to know the value of your personal property. While you may be able to do some research online and attach an approximate value to some items, this has the potential to cause problems when it comes to more expensive property.

If your spouse comes to court with a professional appraiser to testify, and you have the numbers you found on the internet, the judge is likely to rule in favor of your spouse. Here are some topics to explore before hiring a professional appraiser of your own.

  1. Qualifications

Unlike a doctor, lawyer or electrician, an appraiser does not have to obtain a state or federal license in order to set up shop. However, there are national and international associations that offer certifications and memberships to appraisers.

Someone who is a member of the Appraisers Association of America or a similar organization will be adhering to the association’s professional code of ethics and following the certification requirements. A professional association also offers recourse to you if you are unhappy with the work your appraiser performs for you.

  1. Standards

The Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice is the most common collection of standards, and the judge is likely to consider an appraisal using the USPAP credible. However, a judge may invalidate all or a portion of an appraisal that is not in compliance with the USPAP.

  1. Methodology

Appraisers have to use their own discretion when choosing what methodology to use, and the choice could have a significant influence on the fairness of your property division outcomes. Typically, the cost approach or the market comparison approach are best for personal property.

The cost approach involves analyzing how much it would cost to replace the item with something comparable. The market comparison approach involves identifying similar items and noting their recent sale prices. Either of these methods involve deep research to ensure that the replacement item or the similar item are truly a match for your property, and that the estimates regarding depreciation and other factors are relevant.

  1. Court appearances

All of these factors may be of no consequence if your appraiser is not willing to go to court. You will want to ensure that the person you choose provides expert testimony, is comfortable appearing before a judge and can express his or her opinion clearly and succinctly. Otherwise, your spouse may gain the upper hand.