In family law matters, parties often cannot agree on the value of assets such as real property or businesses during their property settlement. In these circumstances, the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Family Law) Rules 2021 require the parties to obtain an independent expert report to determine the value.
Pursuant to the Rules, the parties may agree to jointly appoint a single expert witness, or the Court may, on the application or on its own initiative, order that expert evidence be given by a single expert witness.
>> If you are not satisfied
If you are the party that is not satisfied with the valuation, there are several avenues to pursue that are set out in the Rules.
Firstly, within 21 days after receiving the report of a single expert witness, parties may enter into a written agreement about conferring with the expert witness for the purpose of clarifying the report. The agreement may provide for the parties, or for one of the party’s, to confer with the expert witness.
Secondly, a party may ask questions of the single expert witness within 7 days after a conference, or if no conference is held, within 21 days after the party received the single expert witness’s report. The questions can only be put once and cannot be vexatious or oppressive, and cannot take the expert an unreasonable amount of work to answer. A copy of any questions must be provided to the other party.
The final option is to appoint another expert witness, known as a “shadow expert”. However, this can only be done with the Court’s permission. The recent 2022 Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia decision Neales & Neales demonstrate the high threshold that parties are required to meet to be able to get leave from the Court to engage a shadow expert.
If you need help, please contact – 1800 662 535 the Brisbane Family lawyers team at James Noble Law today for a FREE, no-obligation 20-minute consultation.