A judge at a recently held financial remedy hearing has highlighted the importance and benefits of appointing expert witnesses in complex matrimonial cases.
His Honour Judge Rowland recently heard the case of C (formerly H) v H* at Birmingham Family Court, which regarded the division of assets, including pensions, property and company shares, following a divorce.
As part of the evidence put before him, Milsted Langdon’s Forensic Partner Roger Isaacs was appointed as a single joint expert to give independent evidence on the valuation of shares in a company owned by the husband (H) involved in the design and manufacture of steel fencing.
Valuation of the shares was complex due to issues within the business, its part ownership of other companies and connected pension schemes, which made its value difficult to determine. However, calling on his years of experience, Roger was able to prepare a detailed report and give oral evidence that enabled a clear judgment to be delivered.
In assessing the actions of the expert witness, Judge Rowland said: “Mr Isaacs, the single joint expert accountant, was an impressive witness. His written reports are a model of clarity and he readily acknowledged when a matter was outside his area of expertise, such as in relation to the issue of HMRC penalties on a pension. In his oral evidence, he was measured and able to support his conclusions in a logical manner.”
The use of expert witness evidence is common in divorce cases in which one spouse has an interest in a family business but the valuation of shares in private companies is fraught with difficulty at the best of times and is even more difficult during the current pandemic.
The appointment of single joint experts who are jointly instructed by both parties to the divorce, is intended to reduce costs by minimising the amount of unnecessary argument. However single joint experts often find themselves caught between warring litigants whose can understandably be very emotional.
Responding to the court’s findings, Roger said: “The greatest accolade for any expert witness is to be praised by a judge and it was particularly gratifying to be complemented on both the clarity of my written evidence and my oral testimony.
“Giving evidence in court is never something to be taken lightly and in this case the fact that the evidence had to be given by video because of the Covid-19 pandemic made it even more challenging.
“I am glad that the court was able to rely on my evidence and that it helped the judge to reach a reasoned determination.”