Who is the "independent expert" in family law cases?
If your case involves parenting/children's issues the Family Court may order a child psychologist or psychiatrist to make an assessment of you and the other parties and the children, and to report to the court. This expert is also called a "single expert witness".
Can I ask the court to order an independent expert?
You can ask the court for an order for an expert. Usually the order is requested by the Independent children's lawyer.
Does the expert attend at court?
The expert will give the court a written report. Usually the court will order that you can get a copy of the report from the Independent children's lawyer or from the court. The expert will attend at court for your case only if it goes to trial. See How does the Family Court of WA deal with a case? for other information.
Can I contact the expert?
Once the expert has been ordered by the court, he or she will contact you to arrange appointments for the assessment. You cannot speak to the expert apart from at the appointments and in court when your matter goes to trial. See How does the Family Court of WA deal with a case?
What will I be asked by the expert at the appointment for the assessment?
You will be asked questions about how you get on with the other parties in the case and your parenting of the children, how you relate to the children and how you provide for their needs, whether you think that the children are at risk of any kind of abuse (See Family law and children at risk of harm) and whether you and the other parties will promote the relationship between the children and the parties.
You will be asked to give the expert the names and addresses of all medical practitioners, counsellors and other professional people that you and the children have been in contact with so that the expert can obtain information about your case from them.
You will have to tell the expert the names of all school and day care centres that the children have attended.
Will the expert speak to the children?
Unless your children are very young the expert will usually meet with the children. If the children are of sufficient maturity, the expert will ask them questions about how they get on with you and the other parties in the case and whether they have any preferences as to how much time they want to spend with you and the others involved in the case.
If the children tell the expert their preferences about the times they want to spend with you and others, the expert will ask the children the reasons for the preferences. The answers given by the children do not dictate the expert's assessment, but may influence it.
The court uses an expert as a way of hearing from the children because there are limitations on what children can say directly to the court. (See Can children speak in the family court?)
What if I do not agree with the expert's report?
If you do not agree with the expert's assessment of your case, it may be difficult for you to challenge it. The court will not usually order that a second expert prepare an assessment of your case.
You can tell the court why you do not agree. The court does not have to accept the expert's view.
Do I have to pay for the expert's report?
The court will make an order about payment for the report. If you have the means to pay, you may have to pay something towards the cost. You should get legal advice about this.
What is an independent expert in property/financial issues cases?
If your case involves property, and you cannot agree on the value of that property with the other party, you will have to arrange for an independent expert to inspect the property and prepare a report for the court about the value.
Can I rely on a market appraisal from a real estate agent?
When you start your case, you should obtain two or three market appraisals from real estate agents, about the value of the house and land.
If your case does not resolve itself before the conciliation conference stage of the proceedings (see How does the Family Court of WA deal with a case?) you will have to obtain a sworn valuation from an independent expert. The expert will provide a written report which can be filed in court with an affidavit (see How does the Family Court of WA deal with a case?)
Where do I find an independent expert for valuations of my house and land?
You can get the names of experts from a real estate agent or from the yellow pages.
What if I do not agree with the other party on the values of the household furniture, furnishings, tools, cars, boats, caravans, trailers?
If there is no agreement about the worth of items such as household furniture, furnishings, tools, boats, caravans and trailers (these are called chattels), and vehicles, again you will have to get a sworn valuation from an expert who has the knowledge, skills and experience to value these items.
You can find the names of sworn valuers in the yellow pages.
How do I obtain information about the value of a business?
If you and the other party do not agree on the value of the business, you must provide the court with a sworn valuation from an independent expert who is licensed to value businesses. These valuers are listed in the yellow pages. These valuers will also provide a written report that you need to file at the court, attached to an affidavit. (See How does the Family Court of WA deal with a case?)
Who pays for sworn valuations of property?
You must arrange your own valuer and pay for the report. Sometimes the court will make an order that the other party pay for or contribute towards the cost of the report. You should obtain legal advice about this.
What if the valuations of my independent expert and the other party's expert are not the same?
If the valuers do not agree, the court will order a conference of experts to take place at least 3 weeks before the pre-trial conference stage of your case. See How does the Family Court of WA deal with a case?
At the conference of experts the valuations will be discussed. If there is agreement at the conference on the value of property, you and the other party must accept that value for the remainder of your case.
If there is no agreement at the conference, both valuers will be witnesses in court at the trial stage (see How does the Family Court of WA deal with a case?). The court will then decide which valuation to accept.
Last reviewed 01/09/2010