In England & Wales some 40% of marriages end in divorce. When a marriage comes to an end the parties need to decide how their financial assets are separated. Matrimonial law is a fairly complicated area so professional legal representation is a must.
Financial settlements (whether agreed without litigation, or stipulated by the courts) are generally guided by Section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, which sets out various considerations including the current and future financial resources of the parties, the current and future financial needs of the parties, the parties’ current standard of living, the age of each party, the contribution of the parties to the welfare of the family and the conduct of each party.
For most couples their home will be their most significant financial asset. Consequently, having an accurate valuation of the property will be vital in order to reach an appropriate financial settlement. Some estate agents will offer to undertake valuations for matrimonial purposes, either for free or for a nominal fee but this should usually be avoided – estate agents’ valuations are not subject to any regulation, are often produced quickly and may be inaccurate. In most cases a professional valuation by a qualified Chartered Surveyor should be commissioned. To get a better idea of what’s available, check out this page for more information on the difference types of valuation reports produced by Peter Barry Surveyors.
If you are on good terms with your former spouse it may be possible to agree a financial settlement without recourse to the courts. In those circumstances you may be able to jointly agree on the appointment of a single surveyor to provide a valuation of your home. Alternatively, if the case is referred to the courts, it is likely that the v requiring the parties to concur of the appointment of a single valuer to do the same.
In the event of the latter the valuer will be acting as a Single Joint Expert, and will be required to produce a valuation report in accordance with Part 35 of the Civil Procedure Rules 1998. The Civil Procedure Rules aim to ensure that expert witnesses act independently and impartially in preparing and presenting expert evidence. The report is likely to be a bit longer and more detailed than one commissioned independently, and therefore may be a bit more expensive. In either event, the surveyor’s valuation will need to be prepared in accordance with the RICS Valuation – Professional Standards 2017 (often called a Red Book Valuation). The Professional Standards require valuers to produce genuine, independent and objective valuations so the end result, in terms of the valuation figure, should be exactly the same regardless of whether you appoint a surveyor to produce an independent valuation for settlement purposes or as a Single Joint Expert under the Court’s instruction.
When choosing a Chartered Surveyor to undertake the valuation it is probably best to pick someone with offices close to the property in question, who has a working knowledge of the local property market. If the Court has issued instructions on the appointment of a Single Joint Expert you should ensure that the valuer is familiar with the Civil Procedure Rules and has undertaken expert witness work in the past. Don’t be afraid to ask for a copy of the valuer’s professional C.V. in order to ensure that they have an appropriate level of qualification and experience.