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Everything You Need to Know about Divorce Appraisal

Dividing marital property is a complicated part of any divorce. Even couples who have been married only briefly probably acquired substantial assets, including everything from vehicles, homes, retirement accounts, stocks, and bonds. Even money earned while married can count as marital if you store it in a savings or checking account. 

Appraisal is the process of valuing an asset. Some marital assets won’t need to be appraised. For example, a retirement account should have a dollar value, which might fluctuate, but all you need to do is look at the account. The same is true of money in the bank, or stocks and bonds. 

Other assets will require appraisal, and you should work closely with your South Carolina divorce lawyer. Certain issues can arise, especially when valuing a business asset. Call Surasky Law Firm today to speak with our office about divorce. 

Understanding the Purpose of Appraisal 

South Carolina follows an equitable division of marital property rule. That means your marital property should be divided “fairly” based on certain factors, such as the duration of your marriage and each spouse’s relative earning power. With many marriages, the division is 50/50, but it might be a different percentage for your case. 

Before you can divide the assets, however, you need to know their value. That’s where appraisal comes in. 

Different Types of Appraisals 

The details of any appraisal will depend on the asset being appraised. For example, when it comes to real estate, an appraiser will inspect your property, checking the home’s current condition. They will also look at the neighborhood to determine the local market. The most important factors include the quality of your home’s construction, as well as the home’s size and age. 

A home appraisal differs from a comparative market analysis (CMA), which only looks at comparable properties in the area. Essentially, a CMA relies on the sale value of similar homes to arrive at an estimate of how much you could make if you sold. It is less comprehensive than an appraisal and isn’t sufficient for a divorcing couple. 

Appraisal for a motor vehicle might consist of looking at the Kelley Blue Book value or using a similar source. Plug into the information about your vehicle to determine the market value. 

Other assets might be unique and harder to appraise, including jewelry or paintings. Nonetheless, experienced appraisers know how to arrive at the market value. 

Small Business Appraisal 

Complications often arise with a small business. Typically, one spouse has worked at the business or intends to leave the marriage with the business intact. This spouse has an incentive to depress the value of the business. By doing so, they can increase their share of other marital property.


Imagine a couple is divorcing. All their assets are worth $600,000. But the husband also has a small business which he intends to leave with. The judge wants to divide the marital property 50/50. If the business is valued at $400,000, then the husband will get the business and $100,000. The wife gets the remaining $500,000. But if the business is valued at only $100,000, then he gets the business and an additional $250,000. The wife gets $350,000. 

As you can see, the valuation of the business makes a big difference! The husband has an incentive to get a really low appraisal. 

There are several different ways to appraise a business. The evaluation might be based on receipts, or the value of business assets, or cash flow—or some combination of these factors. It’s critical to work closely with a lawyer who can obtain a fair and accurate business appraisal. 

Scheduling an Appraisal 

You probably can’t complete a divorce until you have all your assets appraised. You should order your appraisals as soon as possible, to work around the appraiser’s schedule. You might also need to pull together documents for the appraiser to look at and compiling everything can take time. 

People who are divorcing without a lawyer will need to coordinate all appraisals themselves. This is a definite benefit of hiring a lawyer very soon in the divorce. 

We strongly recommend appraisal even if you decide how to divide your marital property yourself. 

Appraisal Costs 

Costs are a concern for many people. Helpfully, you can do some appraisals yourself. For example, you can appraise a vehicle by using Kelley Blue Book or a similar source. Car values are fairly standard. 

The cost of a home appraisal could be up to $2,000—or possibly more. It depends on many factors, such as the location and your type of home. You should try to get quotes before hiring someone. 

And, of course, there are other assets you might need to be appraised, like heirloom jewelry or antiques. You should ask ahead of time how much it will cost. You might have to travel around the state to find an appropriate appraiser, or perhaps they can appraise a piece of jewelry based on pictures. 

Competing Appraisals 

What happens if your spouse hires an appraiser, and you are suspicious about the numbers generated? Should you go out and seek your own appraiser? Possibly. Again, there might be a strategic advantage to getting an asset with a low appraisal value—especially when you know ahead of time one spouse is leaving the marriage with the asset. 

Call an attorney to discuss. Having an asset appraised again is more expensive, but it might be necessary to protect yourself. It’s hard to unwind an unfair division of marital property once you complete divorce. 

Call Our Divorce Lawyer Today 

Don’t be intimidated by property appraisal. Surasky Law Firm has helped many divorcing men and women with property division. We know how to do things right. Give us a call today to schedule your free consultation with our law office. 


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