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When approached by a solicitor, in family law, the job they wish to discuss can vary from the simple valuation of a family business with two parties that are prepared to mediate and come to an amicable agreement…to being in the middle of a war zone with each side launching hand grenades at each other.
Recently, I have experienced both scenarios.
In the first instance, I was appointed jointly by both parties to conduct a business valuation. At the outset, it was clear the solicitors were willing to work together to achieve a reasonable result in the division of the asset pool for their respective clients. It was also clear that, although they were both working towards a common goal, they would protect their client’s interest if they thought the other party was being unreasonable.
While I detected a level of mistrust between the husband and the wife, the practitioners were able to leave me to perform my tasks without questioning why I required various documents or information. As I was provided with all the requested information, virtually without question, in a timely fashion, my final report satisfied any unease or mistrust from either side and I understand an agreement has now been reached.
On the other end of the spectrum, I was again appointed jointly by the court as an expert witness. In this appointment, it was required to ensure that, where correspondence is sent, both parties receive a copy. It is not prudent for a single expert to meet with or discuss the matter with one party without the other party’s involvement.
In this matter I encountered one party who wished to constantly engage with me to the exclusion of not only the other party, but also his own legal representative. I proceeded to request the information I deemed appropriate and necessary for me to complete my engagement. What I received however was volumes of unsolicited documents that (in the end) was determined as totally irrelevant to completing my brief, which was further impeded with visits to my office to deliver the unsolicited information. To further complicate matters, the solicitors were constantly at war over procedural matters. Ultimately, the active party replaced his solicitor and I understand that they have now reached a mutually satisfactory settlement.
From an expert’s point of view, being engaged by practitioners who are prepared to collaborate on a solution for their respective clients is certainly a far preferable scenario. Obviously this is not always possible; however, encountering practitioners and/or clients that are deliberately antagonistic towards the other side can often just make an expert’s job more difficult and costly than it needs to be.