Case Law Analysis: GA v EL [2023] EWFC 187 Highlights Complexities of Expert Evidence in Family Proceedings

Citation: [2023] EWFC 187
Judgment on

Introduction

The case of GA v EL [2023] EWFC 187 dealt with a “Daniels v Walker” application brought before MR JUSTICE PEEL in the context of financial remedy proceedings within the Family Court. This case provides insight into the application of expert evidence in family proceedings, particularly when parties dispute the historic valuation of assets. It is crucial for legal professionals to understand the legal principles in play, as the case touches upon the timely use of expert evidence, the necessity test for introducing such evidence, and the management of financial remedy cases.

Key Facts

GA v EL involves the valuation of business interests as part of financial remedy proceedings following the parties’ separation. While parties agreed on the division of non-business assets, disagreement surrounded the value of the business interests and the extent of post-separation increase in value. An initial Single Joint Expert (SJE) valued the business using a “present day approach,” later providing an alternative “hindsight approach” valuation after further enquiry. The Wife (W) sought to challenge the SJE report, presenting her own valuation which differed slightly from the SJE’s hindsight valuation.

The judgment addresses several key legal principles:

  1. Expert Evidence in Family Proceedings: As dictated by FPR 2010 25.4, expert evidence can only be put before the court with permission, and this permission is contingent on the evidence being “necessary to assist the court to resolve the proceedings.” This threshold of necessity was further defined in Re: H L (A Child) [2013] EWCA Civ 655.

  2. Daniels v Walker Applications: Such applications, which seek to introduce a new expert to challenge a SJE report, must demonstrate non-fanciful reasons for doing so. They are evaluated based on factors including the timeliness of the application, the potential impact on the trial, and the overall interests of justice (Cosgrove & Anor v Pattison [2001] CPLR 177).

  3. Historic vs. Realistic Valuations: E v L [2021] EWFC 60 informed the distinction between “present day approach” vs. “hindsight approach” in valuing assets historically. Historically relying on predictions, “present day approach” is cautioned against due to its potential to yield unrealistic valuations.

Outcomes

MR JUSTICE PEEL dismissed the Wife’s Daniels v Walker application. Despite the Wife’s argument regarding the expert’s approach to valuation, the judge determined that the application was untimely and would unfairly disadvantage the Husband. Additionally, the likely delay in proceedings, the complexity, and the minimal discrepancy between the valuations were factors against granting permission for a new expert report, especially given that the exact value was not deemed determinative of the final financial settlement.

Conclusion

In GA v EL, MR JUSTICE PEEL highlighted the complexities surrounding the admission of expert evidence in financial remedy proceedings. The case demonstrates the court’s cautious approach to allow additional expert evidence, emphasizing the need for timely applications and clear necessity to assist the court in resolving proceedings. Legal practitioners should heed the judgment’s guidance on the careful management of expert evidence and be mindful of the broader, holistic overview required in financial remedies cases over strictly mathematical valuations. This case reinforces the principle that in financial remedy proceedings, the court must consider a multitude of factors, with expert valuations serving a supportive, not decisive, role.

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