American Bar Association
General Practice, Solo, and Small Firm Division



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.



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