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Experts Part 1: Why and how we use experts in family proceedings

Experts are commonly used in family proceedings whether in relation to children matters or divorce/financial matters. An expert is a person who is considered to be very knowledgeable about or skilful in a particular area. The purpose of an expert in family proceedings is to inform the Court about a particular issue that is in question. In children matters this may for example involve a psychologist reporting on a child’s state of mind and the benefits or otherwise of reinstating contact with a parent, or a psychiatrist reporting on a parent’s mental health and the appropriateness of them having contact with their child. In financial matters, surveyors are frequently instructed to value properties that are the subject of a financial claim, pension actuaries are frequently instructed to advise on the sharing of pensions and accountants on the value of any companies and potential tax liabilities.

Whilst the Courts appreciate the importance of experts, they are keen to avoid experts being instructed unnecessarily in family proceedings, not least because this can add considerably to the costs incurred. Therefore, the Court’s permission is required prior to an expert being instructed by any party in family proceedings. Furthermore, where the Court considers that expert evidence is necessary, the standard procedure is for an expert to be jointly instructed. This means that only one expert is instructed to report on the issue in question. This requires the parties to agree who the expert should be and to agree the terms on which the expert is instructed. The advantage is that the costs of only one expert are incurred, which is often shared between the parties. Additionally, the Court is provided with just one expert opinion on the issue in question upon which it can rely.

An expert’s evidence is usually provided in writing in the first instance in the form of a report. If all parties are prepared to accept the contents of the report then the expert may not need to be involved further in the proceedings. If any party disputes the contents of the report, however, then they will usually be permitted to ask questions of the expert. If necessary the expert may be required to attend Court in order to be questioned on their findings.

It is important to identify early on in any family proceedings whether an expert may be required in order to avoid subsequent delay. Where an expert is required it is important to ensure that an appropriate expert is instructed and that they are instructed to advise on all relevant matters, as it could prejudice a party’s case if they are not. In these circumstances, we would always recommend seeking advice from a family solicitor at an early stage in family proceedings, especially if expert evidence may be required.

We offer an initial consultation of up to one hour for £50.00 inclusive of VAT where you can receive further advice.  To book an initial consultation, please contact 01444 472700 or info@tisshawssolicitors.co.uk.

 

 

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