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Getting in the Experts

In Family Law matters, expert witnesses are commonly used in assisting the parties to resolve various issues within their dispute. While it was once common for each party to engage their own experts, the Family Court has preferred that the parties agree on and use one expert.

The Family Law Rules 2004, which commenced operation on 1 April 2004 confirms this preference and requires the parties to jointly appoint a single expert witness where they agree that expert evidence may help to resolve a substantial issue in a dispute. Where the parties are unable to agree on the identity of the expert, the Court can intervene and appoint one for them.

If a party disagrees with the expert’s findings and wants to appoint a second expert, they need the consent of the Court to do so. The Court has taken a very conservative approach in allowing evidence from a second expert. Under the rules, the dissatisfied party must satisfy the Court that there is a substantial body of opinion that is contrary to the expert’s opinion or that the second expert knows of matters that the first expert did not or that there is some other special reason that the second expert’s evidence should be allowed.

While the Court is assisted by the use of experts in resolving issues between the parties, to many experts with varying opinions tend to complicate the issues resulting in longer hearings and further expense to the parties.

The message that the Court is sending to parties is by all means obtain the opinion of experts to assist the Court, but use one expert and agree on who it is to be.

If you have any family law questions, please do not hesitate to contact us for more information.