One of the first steps in a family law property settlement is to identify each parties’ assets and their worth. When parties cannot agree on the value of an asset it becomes necessary to get these assets valued.
Valuation of assets, particularly real property, is commonly done through the appointment of a single expert witness.
A single expert witness is a jointly appointed expert who prepares a report on their area of expertise for use as evidence in Court. If a single expert witness is appointed to value the parties’ assets, the valuation prepared by the witness is the only evidence to be relied on regarding the value of the asset.
This raises the question: What happens if you don’t agree with the single expert witness?
1. Question the Expert
The first thing to do if you have issues with the single expert report is to put questions to the expert. Each Court has its own rules about how and when you can question an expert. It is therefore important that you consult with your solicitor prior to questioning the expert.
2. Conference with the Expert
The second option is for the parties to hold a conference with the expert where they are able to ask questions in relation to the report. It is worth noting that the purpose of the conference is to clarify the report and it is not an opportunity to interrogate the expert witness.
3. Appointing a Second Expert
If the single expert’s position doesn’t change or you are not satisfied with the expert’s answers, it may be necessary to apply to the Court to appoint another expert witness.
Generally speaking, the Court will not allow you to use evidence from another expert witness when the parties have jointly appointed one. In order to be allowed to have another expert give evidence on the same issue you must establish that there is a ‘special reason’ for necessitating the evidence. The fact that another expert may give a different value is not itself sufficient for the Court to allow the use of another expert’s report.
You are unlikely to be successful in an application to appoint another expert witness if you have not attempted to clarify the report through asking questions or holding a conference with the single expert witness first.
If you require any further information or advice in relation to your property settlement, including seeking valuations, please contact our office to arrange a time to meet with one of our experienced solicitors.