image of home and a divorce between a husband and wife. This relates to real estate appraisal and court issues

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Navigating Red Flags: a Contentious Divorce Case

Q: "I received a call from an attorney I’ve worked with in the past. He asked if I could serve as an expert in a divorce case he’s handling. Initially, I was ready to send him my standard engagement letter via email, but after replaying our conversation in my mind, I’m having second thoughts. I wonder if my concerns are valid or if I’m just being overly cautious.

The attorney started out by saying that it was a very "ugly" divorce. He represents the husband who wants to keep the marital home, but claims the foundation is failing. I asked if there were any reports or documents from a professional regarding the severity of the foundation issues. At this point, he started talking fast about some inspector’s report that was done in connection with a lawsuit against the former contractor. However, that report was not to the liking of his client, so they had to find another inspector who would write “the report the client wanted”.

The attorney assured me that his client, though demanding, knows exactly what he wants and is willing to pay for quality work. If I deliver excellent work, there won’t be any issues, and he’ll pay whatever fee is necessary to get the job done right.

After thinking about it, now I see red flags everywhere. Why does the husband want the house if the foundation is failing? He has no problem with filing lawsuits, because it sounds like he is suing a contractor over something having to do with the foundation.

The part that really concerns me is the fact that he wants what he wants, he is demanding, he will pay whatever is necessary to get "excellent work" etc. That sounds to me like he is going to tell me how to value this property and offer to pay me to produce the report he wants. If I don’t give him what he wants, he will sue me. Do you think I’m being silly?"

A: I don’t believe you’re being silly. In fact, I think you’ve understood everything correctly. This individual knows exactly what they want and is willing to pay for it. They may make demands, threats, or involve their attorney to make the demands and threaten you. If you don’t meet their expectations, he won’t hesitate to fire you. He might even take legal action or file a complaint with the licensing board. The bottom line is that dealing with this person could make your life as ‘ugly’ as their divorce proceedings. If the attorney contacts you again, trust your instincts and decline the assignment.

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