What is an Expert Witness and Will I Need One?

In Child Custody, Child Support, Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

Property division, child custody, alimony, and child support proceedings all have the potential to go to trial. In fact, courts dockets are overloaded with cases set for trial. If your case is set for trial, and mediation has been unsuccessful, it is critical that you communicate regularly with your attorney to understand what is in store for you.

What are Expert Witnesses?

One of the phrases that you will likely hear is that your case will need “expert witnesses.” Expert witnesses are professional witnesses who are experts in the subject matter they are testifying about. Experts are often paid and offered by one party, and sometimes, parties will offer conflicting experts. Nevertheless, experts are expected to be independent and offer their expert opinion. They are not supposed to actively advocate for the interest of one party over another.

For purposes of family law matters, experts may include:

  • Medical doctors, who can testify about any medical conditions, prognoses, injuries, and medical records. If a child or spouse has expensive, ongoing medical needs, this testimony can be critical when it comes to child support, alimony, and/or property division. Likewise, if there has been domestic violence or physical abuse, a medical expert can help establish this information.
  • Psychologists or Licensed Professional Counselors. These experts can testify regarding children or adults, and as to the emotional and psychological impact of the other spouse’s acts or omissions. This may include serious matters such as cruelty or domestic violence.
  • Certified Public Accountants or Appraisers. For property division and complex marital estates, it is essential to have experts who can offer opinions regarding the fair market value of property.

An expert’s qualifications as an expert must be proven. In order for an expert to be able to provide testimony, the party offering the witness must demonstrate that the witness is qualified to provide expert testimony. This means that the witness must demonstrate that he or she has the education, professional experience, and specific expertise in the field to give an opinion in the subject matter at hand.

Be warned though, experts witnesses are expensive. In fact, beyond attorney’s fees, expert fees are some of the biggest legal expenses for any lawsuit. This is because you are paying a highly qualified doctor, psychologist, or accountant to spend hours reviewing your record, talking with attorneys, and testifying in court.

New Direction Family Law

Family law litigation can become intricate, complicated, and hard fought, especially if a proceeding goes to trial. You need a strong attorney who knows the law and will advocate for you. If you are considering separation and divorce, contact New Direction Family Law. Our attorneys provide smart, effective representation and will work tirelessly to serve your legal interests. We serve Wake, Johnston, Lee, Harnett, Cumberland, Nash, Granville, Franklin, and Durham counties. Contact New Direction Family Law today at (919) 719-3470 to schedule an appointment or reach us online.