Expert Witnesses in Divorce Cases
Part of preparing for trial is locating expert witnesses. An expert witness is someone who is allowed to express a professional opinion at the trial. In divorce and custody cases, expert witnesses include psychologists, economists, accountants, social workers, and pediatricians, among others. In custody cases, the court will often allow testimony by psychologists or social workers to help determine what decisions are in the best interests of the children. Experts such as psychologists usually charge $150 to $300 per hour to evaluate the people involved and formulate an opinion regarding who should be granted custodial rights.
Do not assume that just because someone has a Ph.D. he or she will necessarily view your family situation the same way you do. Just as there are two sides to every story, there are also several ways to look at any given family dynamic. It is probably safe to assume that if your spouse is paying for an expert, that expert will find a reason why you should not have custody. Otherwise, why would your spouse be paying this person? Even if you and your spouse are splitting the cost of an expert or an expert was appointed by the court, do not assume that the expert will be impartial. Talk to your lawyer about hiring an expert of your own.
Perhaps you have nothing going in your favor in a custody case. Let’s say you are unemployed and your spouse, who works, takes the children to work and watches them there while you veg out at home every day. You want custody, though, so you won’t have to pay child support. If you get custody, you plan to let your mother watch the kids and use the child-support money to make the rent and car payments. How can you get custody? Your best tactic may be to hire an expert to trash your spouse for being a compulsive workaholic. Sound far-fetched? It shouldn’t -learn to expect the un-expected when it comes to a contested divorce and especially a contested custody case!
If your spouse hires an expert, beware. Take it seriously, and do whatever it takes to get your own expert to counteract your spouse’s. Even better, be the one to get an expert first.
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