As divorce law solicitors one of the biggest questions we are asked is what will happen to the family home on divorce, Shavaun from our family team explains more.
In the majority of cases, the family home is the couple’s most valuable asset and can therefore often be a point of contention in the division of financial assets on divorce.
There are various options available to divorcing couples and the court about what should happen to the family home. One option is for the property to be sold and the net proceeds divided as considered appropriate in the circumstances of the case. Often however, particularly when there are children, one spouse may wish and/or need to retain the former matrimonial home. When this is the case, the other spouse may receive money by way of a lump sum or other assets to even up the distribution.
Whatever option is chosen or ordered, the property may need to be valued for the settlement, so that the spouses’ and the court know what money is in the pot for division. This is particularly important in the case where the property is retained by one spouse so that the other spouse can receive an appropriate balancing payment by way of money or other assets.
When completing Forms E (a financial statement completed by both husband and wife detailing their financial circumstances), the couple often obtain informal market appraisals as to the value of the family home from local estate agents, and a value may be agreed between the couple without needing a formal valuation.
If however the couple cannot agree upon a value, a single joint expert, namely a chartered surveyor, may have to be appointed to determine the value.
It is important to establish at an early stage whether a single joint expert will be necessary and ideally, this should be established no later than the first directions appointment (the first hearing which is used to determine what further information and documentation is needed to progress the case).
Once it has been established that a single joint expert is necessary, there are various steps as follows:-
- The couple should attempt to agree who to instruct as a single joint expert, but in default of an agreement, the court may select the expert from a list prepared or identified by the couple.
- Once the court has given directions for the appointment of a single joint expert, a joint letter of instruction is prepared and sent to the expert. The joint letter of instruction should set out the context in which the expert’s opinion is sought and set out the specific question(s) that the expert is required to answer.
- The expert’s evidence is then produced by way of a written report.
- After an expert’s report has been served, both husband and wife may put questions to the expert within ten days of the report being served, but these questions must only be for the purpose of clarifying the report, unless the court directs otherwise.
- Both spouses are jointly and severally liable for paying for the single joint expert’s fees and expenses, unless the court directs otherwise.
In most cases, the report of a single joint expert is accepted by the couple and may be submitted in evidence so that the single joint expert does not have to attend the final hearing for cross-examination.
Ultimately, the duty of an expert is to help the court on matters within their expertise so as to bring matters to a resolution, and this duty overrides any obligation to the person who instructs them.
Instructing a single joint expert can be technical as there are specific statutory provisions that govern the instruction, identity and role of an expert and in particular the contents of the letter of instruction. In addition, the letter needs to be drafted to take into account the specific circumstances of your case. Therefore, it is better to seek the advice of a solicitor at an early stage when considering the valuation of your family home on divorce.
Shavaun is a trainee solicitor currently working in our family team. Our family law team advises families across the South West on the best solutions for them. If you would like to get in touch with the team by telephone 0345 450 5558 or email email@example.com