One of the first steps in determining how property should be divided is to identify and value the assets of the parties.
Preferably parties are able to agree on the value of assets and no formal valuations are required.
When parties cannot agree on a value then the Family Law Rules 2004 set out the procedure for appointing a single expert. The main purpose of a single expert appointment is to reduce unnecessary issues and costs that can arise when each party has their own expert.
A single expert witness can be appointed by the parties prior to proceedings being commenced (Rule 15.44) or by Court Order (Rule 15.45). Unless otherwise agreed, or ordered, the costs of the single expert are met equally by the parties.
What if I don’t agree with the single expert’s value?
If a party disagrees with the single expert report or wishes to clarify aspects of the report then they may ask questions of the single expert within 21 days of receipt of the report (rule 15.65). The questions must be in writing and a copy provided to all parties. The single expert’s response must be in writing, provided to all parties and is taken to form part of the single experts report.
If answers to the questions to the single expert do not resolve the issue then it may be necessary to obtain evidence from another expert witness. To rely on such evidence will require the leave of the Court (Rule 15.49) and the Court will only grant leave to adduce evidence from another expert if it is satisfied that:-
- There is a substantial body of opinion contrary to any opinion given by the single expert witness and that the contrary opinion is or may be necessary for determining the issue;
- Another expert witness knows of matters, not known to the single expert witness, that may be necessary for determining the issue; or
- There is another special reason for adducing evidence from another expert witness.
So what happens if there are 2 expert witnesses who disagree?
If leave has been granted to adduce evidence from a second expert the next step is usually for the expert witnesses to confer in relation to the issues in dispute. If, following that conference, the expert witnesses do not reach agreement (and the parties cannot reach agreement) then both expert witnesses may be cross examined at trial. The Court will then make a determination as to the value of the item in dispute after hearing the evidence of the expert witnesses.
Please feel free to contact our office if we can be of any assistance with your family law matter.Tags: Family Court, Family Law Act, Federal Circuit Court, Matrimonial Property, Property, property settlement, Single Expert, valuation disputes
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