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 (ICL). Fore more information on ICLs, see Independent children’s lawyer in the Family Court.
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.
Can I contact the expert?
Once the expert has been ordered by the Court, they 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. You may be able to ask the expert certain questions in writing to clarify things they have said in their report. The questions and answers would also need to be provided to the other parties. Seek legal advice.
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 and whether you think that the children are at risk of any kind of abuse (see Family law and children at risk of harm).
You will be asked to give the expert the names and addresses of all doctors, 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 gone to.
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 if you have any concerns.
Last reviewed 02/11/2012