12th Apr 2017

Director James Pirrie comments on the use of expert witnesses in family cases

Director James Pirrie was recently quoted in a detailed article on the use of single joint experts. The article by Grania Landgon-Down appeared in the Law Society Gazette entitled “Experts and their evidence are under hostile scrutiny amid fears over a decline in standards“.

When it comes to family, experts’ fees for untangling often global business and jurisdictional issues on divorce, as well as for pre- and post-nups, can run into six or even seven figures.

James Pirrie, director of Family Law in Partnership, is preparing the good practice guide for Resolution. He points to the judgment in SK v TK, where the judge said attempts to reduce the accountancy evidence to one expert rather than two had ironically led to there being three experts.

‘Courts will insist on a single joint expert (SJE) to save costs,’ Pirrie says. ‘But the parties will then appoint their own shadow experts and each side decides for different reasons that the SJE is wrong so lots of time is spent attacking that expert’s opinion.’

Practitioners are asking their shadow experts to draft increasingly detailed questions to establish, for instance, the true cash position of a complex debt structure, as well as determine whether assets, accounts or income streams have been inadvertently – or intentionally – left out of a respondent’s disclosure. Shadows will also scrutinise the SJE’s valuation report and can end up becoming court-appointed and giving evidence. Given that a 1% difference in a business valuation can alter the assets in the case by hundreds of thousands or sometimes millions of pounds, practitioners say the results justify the extra costs.

To find out more about the use of experts in court proceedings and in particular, the use of single joint experts in family law cases, read the full article here.