General Practice, Solo, and Small Firm Division
<< BACK TO TABLE OF CONTENTS: WINTER 1997
WINTER 1997 ISSUE
Checklist: Expert Witnesses for Child Custody Cases
1. Types of experts needed
a. o Medical doctor.
b. o Psychologist.
c. o Child psychologist.
d. o Psychiatrist.
e. o Mental health professional.
f. o Other.
g. o Find an appropriate expert.
(1) o Review past files to find possible expert witnesses.
(2) o Begin early, allowing time for child to be examined.
h. o Contact expert.
i. o Interview expert, preferably in person.
j. o Retain expert.
(1) o Set out terms of employment.
(2) o Arrange fee payment.
k. o Determine whether written report is necessary
l. o Verify appointments of expert with client and to examine child.
m.o Procure necessary releases.
n. o Prepare client for consultation with expert.
o. o Discuss testing procedures and results with expert.
p. o Decide whether expert will testify at trial.
q. o Prepare expert for trial.
(1) o Compile list of direct-examination questions.
(2) o Determine whether to request opinion then basis, or vice versa.
(3) o Consider predictable cross-examination questions.
(4) o Subpoena expert unless certain she or he will appear.
r. o Discover other side’s data.
(1) o Depose witness.
(2) o Subpoena duces tecum for test results and necessary materials.
(3) o Inquire as to all mental health professionals who have interviewed or examined child.
(4) o Follow-up on experts consulted but not used, who may have given opinions supportive of your client’s position.
2. Common bases for attacking expert witnesses:
a. o Qualifications.
(1) o Licensed to practice?
(2) o Certified in any specialty?
(3) o Educated to work with children?
(4) o Began practicing only recently?
(5) o Independent practitioner, or working for a larger organization?
(6) o Testified as an expert before?
b. o Bias.
(1) o Always testifies for mothers? for fathers?
(2) o Always testifies accommodatingly for opposing counsel?
(3) o Fee arrangement is incentive?
(4) o Testifying as a favor to someone?
c. o Limited knowledge.
(1) o Dealt with children in the past?
(2) o Aware of the framework, leverages and dynamics of custody law and litigation?
(3) o Knowledgeable about legally permissible alternatives?
d. o Inadequate observation opportunities.
(1) o Observed child only briefly, in limited settings?
(2) o Basis for opinion of who is better custodian?
(3) o Any home visits made?
Copied from Child Custody Practice and Procedure with permission of the Publisher: Clark Boardman Callaghan/West Group, 610 Opperman Drive, Eagan, MN 55123. For additional information, please contact Clark Boardman Callaghan/West Group at 800/328-4880.