Home » Briefing the Expert – Understanding the Value of Independent Experts in Family Law Proceedings

Written by: Taylor Wilson, Family Lawyer

Family law proceedings often require the expertise of professionals to provide insights, evaluations, and recommendations which aid in assisting the parties, and where required, the courts, to make informed decisions to finalise family law matters. These professionals can be experts in psychology, social work, real estate, finance, or asset appraisal. Instructing these experts effectively is essential to ensure that their contributions are valuable, reliable, and aligned with legal standards.

What is an expert?

An expert is a qualified person whose opinion is accepted by the court to be evidence because, through specialised education and training, they hold the requisite qualifications and expertise to provide that evidence. Their role is to provide impartial evidence orally, or through a written report, which can be fact or their professional option.


Identifying the need for expertise:

The decision to seek an expert opinion can depend on the complexity of the issue as well as the evidence required. Experts are primarily utilised for contested proceedings, though their evidence may also help the parties in proactively avoiding the full force of extended contested proceedings. The reports they prepare can be utilised for the purpose of negotiation, dispute resolution or litigation.

Parenting Matters

Where disputes have arisen about care arrangements for children, an expert can provide recommendations which enable the parents, and children, to move forward. Psychologists or social workers who are specifically trained in trauma-informed care and have specialist knowledge in assisting children to navigate the complexities of family separation are ideal. These types of experts can assist in providing invaluable insights into what is, in their recommendation, in the best interests of the child. This includes tailored recommendations about who the child should live with, and how much time, if any, they spend with the other parent.  Other mental health experts can also be consulted to evaluate the capacity of a parent to adequately care for the child should it be required.

Property Matters

Where the value of an asset is contested, a valuation completed by an independent expert can eliminate any further dispute about the value, ultimately mitigating the parties’ legal costs. Suitably qualified appraisers can conduct valuations to determine the value of any relevant real estate, contents or other assets, in addition to the value of any interest in a business or trust. A professional opinion also ensures the value of the property pool is accurately reflected to streamline the settlement process.


Selecting the right expert

Your family law solicitor will have an expansive network of qualified experts which they can recommend as relevant to your matter. It is essential to select experts with the relevant qualifications, experience and expertise in the specific issues relevant to the matter. If issues arise that exceed the limits of the chosen expert’s expertise, it can lead to increased costs and delays for the parties in locating an alternate, more suitably qualified expert.

Further, selecting experts who are familiar with family court proceedings also ensures they are familiar with their duties to the court, and provides an effective safeguard in ensuring their evidence is admissible. Their ability and duty to remain impartial increases the likelihood of achieving fair and satisfactory outcomes for the parties.


Instructing the expert:

An expert may be appointed by the court, or the parties can agree to jointly appoint an expert themselves. Experts must adhere to professional standards, disclose conflicts of interest affecting impartiality, and understand the expectations as expert witnesses per court rules. Once an expert has been selected or appointed, the parties negotiate agreed joint instructions to the expert to ensure transparency of the material provided.

For parenting matters, the expert is usually provided with the relevant filed court material and may be provided with previous reports by other treating practitioners if applicable. If the children have been undergoing supervised visits with one or both of the parents at a supervised contact centre, they may also be provided with the attendance notes of those appointments.  The expert will usually conduct interviews with the children and the parents, as well as conduct observations of how they interact with each other.

For property matters, the expert will attend to inspect the real estate or asset in person. If there is a valuation being undertaken on a business or trust, the expert will review material including the financial statements, Trust Deed, BAS statements, depreciation schedules, ASIC organisation extracts and payroll reports.



Need guidance through your separation?

Whether addressing parenting or property matters, experts play a crucial role in providing impartial and informed evidence that aids courts in reaching fair and just conclusions. The thorough selection of qualified experts, aligned with the specific requirements of the case, is essential to ensuring the effectiveness of their contributions.

At Greenhalgh Pickard, we understand the unique challenges faced by parents on the Sunshine Coast. Our team is here to guide you every step of the way. If you need assistance with your parenting or property matters, reach out via our contact page or give us a call. We’re here to help.


The information contained in this article is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice or substitute for the advice of a professional. This information does not consider your personal circumstances and may not reflect the most current legal developments. Should you need advice, please contact our firm for targeted information relating to personal your situation.