Experts are often used in child custody cases to advise attorneys and/or testify on a relevant issue. While they can offer invaluable assistance in certain cases, they aren’t always necessary. Many cases can be resolved without the involvement of an expert if the parties can agree on their own. If your attorney recommended using an expert, here are a few key points to understand:
What Types of Experts May Be Used in Child Custody Cases?
Typically, the expert is a mental health professional, such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, or therapist. In some cases, the individual may have a specialty, such as substance abuse counseling or drug or alcohol testing, if that expertise is needed in the case.
When Are Experts Brought into a Child Custody Case?
There are a few common scenarios where experts are usually hired. The first one is where a custody evaluation is ordered by the Court or agreed to by the parties because there is a significant custody-related dispute between the parties. A specially trained mental health professional conducts the evaluation, gathers relevant information about the parties and their children, and reports to the Court. In some cases, the custody evaluator may conduct psychological testing on the parties and the children and will provide the results to the Court along with the evaluator’s custody recommendations. When psychological testing occurs, one or both parties often decide to involve an expert to evaluate the results and assist as a consultant or rebuttal expert.
Experts may also be used where a party or child has mental health or psychological issues or a party has a substance abuse problem. The expert can provide strategic advice or testimony as needed.
What Role Does an Expert Have in a Child Custody Case?
Attorneys may seek to bring in an expert to act as a consultant on the case. The expert can help the attorney analyze the custody evaluator’s report, develop areas of argument against or in support of the evaluator’s opinion, provide guidance on developing an appropriate parenting time plan, and provide other advice.
Experts are also often used to rebut the opinion of the other party’s expert witness. Again, the expert can act as a consultant, advising on challenging the competing expert. Alternatively, the expert can provide a formal opinion on the same subject matter as the other party’s expert. If the expert prepares a formal opinion, the expert and the opinion must be formally disclosed to the other side before trial as required by Court rules.
If you are a parent considering divorce, contact us to learn how we can help. We have extensive experience with divorce and custody matters and frequently work with experts to help ensure we present the strongest case possible on behalf of our clients.