Single Expert Witness

In complex parenting cases, the Family Court may get a child psychologist, social worker or psychiatrist to interview the parents and their children, and prepare a report answering particular questions. The expert can also give evidence in court if the case goes to trial. The expert evidence is to help the court decide what orders are in the best interests of the children.

As much as possible, the court will appoint a Single Expert Witness, rather than having more than one expert give evidence. 

An Independent Children's Lawyer will usually consider asking the court to request a report from a Single Expert Witness. The parties can also agree to appoint a Single Expert Witness in the case or ask the court to make an order appointing a Single Expert Witness.

This information will help you to understand the role of the Single Expert Witness.  Find out:

  • who decides the person to be the Single Expert Witness
  • what questions the report might cover
  • how they gather information for their report, and
  • how the report is used by the court.

Do I get a choice of who will be the Single Expert Witness?

If the court thinks a Single Expert Witness report will be required, it will normally ask the parties to come up with a list of experts who are willing to be appointed and what they will charge to produce a report and attend court. If the parties cannot agree on who should be the Single Expert Witness, the court can choose someone from the list of experts. 

Each party can be asked to pay up to half of the costs of the Single Expert Witness's report.

What does the Single Expert Witness's report cover?

The parties are also asked to prepare a draft with the questions that the Single Expert Witness will be asked to answer in their report. The instructions and questions for the report are only given to the Single Expert Witness after the draft has been approved by the court. 

If the court wants the report to include the results of a test or investigation done by the expert, that will need to be made clear as part of the instructions and questions given to the Single Expert Witness.

How does the Single Expert Witness find out information about our case?

When the Single Expert Witness is given the instructions and questions for the report, they may be given a set of documents about the case. Exactly what things are included will be something that is agreed on by the parties, or decided by the court. This information can include:

  • court documents filed in the case
  • information provided by other agencies to the court (included under subpoenas)
  • information obtained by the Family Consultant assigned to the case
  • information obtained by an Independent Children's Lawyer appointed to the case

The Single Expert Witness will usually be asked to speak with the parents and children involved in the case. 

Can I contact the expert?

Once the expert has been ordered by the Court, they will contact you to arrange appointments to meet you.  You can’t speak to the expert outside of the appointments or in Court if 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.

What will I be asked by the expert at the appointment for the assessment?

You will be asked questions about your relationship 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.

You will be asked to give the expert the names and addresses of all school or day care centres, 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.

Will the expert speak to the children?

The expert will likely meet with the children unless they are very young.  If the children are sufficiently mature, the expert will ask questions about their relationship 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.

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 why.  The answers given by the children do not dictate the expert's assessment, but may influence it.

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.


The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.