How many times have we all heard the statement from friends "No problem, we've agreed on everything and it will be an amicable divorce". It's usually about that time that the fireworks begin! Screaming, shouting "If you want that then I get this". The real estate portion of the divide is no different especially if one party decides to remain in the home. If both parties leave the home and sell it, the bank gets theirs - you split the rest, assuming there's something left. Usually we find that divorcing parties want a quick sale and end up lowering the price just to get it over.
Most states have laws pertaining to equitable distribution.
If one of the parties decides to remain living in the home then the court will want to know the value of the home. This is where an appraiser gets involved. So who is going to hire the appraiser and pay the fee. She says he should, he say she should. The truth of the matter is you both should hire different appraisers simply to protect your own interests. Yes, I know it sounds like appraisers drumming up double business. I assure you that is not the reason.
National statistics show even the best of appraisers can be within 5% of each other or the actual selling price and be correct. Meaning they have done their job properly, according to the rules and regulations of appraising. A 5% difference on a $200,000 home is $10,000. Assuming your divorce is based on a 50/50 split the party leaving the home would be receiving an extra $5,000 for their efforts. Not bad for an hours work which is what the appraiser's inspection generally takes. Yes, you should be there to answer any and all questions YOUR appraiser asks.
Many factors such as condition, appearance and maintenance reflect on the outcome of the appraisal. An example, I had one party tell me the roof leaks, after noticing the marks on the ceiling sheet rock and after contacting my client, who was not at the inspection, I was informed that the water mark damage on the bedroom ceiling was from the air conditioning unit leaking in the attic above which was fixed approximately 4 months ago. She had copies of the air conditioning bill to prove it. They simply never fixed the drywall ceiling. Obviously the husband wanted the appraised value lower since he had to pay the wife.
Your options improve in court as well. Assuming you both have appraisals performed and there is a difference in the market value generally the judge has the option to add the two together and split the difference or get a court ordered third appraisal to see who's right.
Since your only other option is to accept what your other half claims is correct, keeping in mind there is good and bad in every industry, your best option is to HIRE YOUR OWN and BE THERE DURING THE INSPECTION. Inform your appraiser of items you feel need to be addressed so they will appear within the report and strengthen your case in court.
One final note. Make sure your real estate appraiser is a State Licensed or Certified Appraiser.