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An expert witness is someone with specialist knowledge. For example, a psychiatrist. They can provide the family court with expert evidence during court proceedings. This is to help the court reach a fair and informed decision. The expert will prepare a report for the court. They may also give evidence at a contested hearing.
The court can only agree to expert evidence being commissioned during care proceedings if that evidence will be “necessary to resolve the proceedings justly”. This means that the court needs the expert evidence in order to make a decision. The court’s permission is required in order to instruct an expert witness. The judge must be satisfied that the expert opinion cannot be provided by anyone else. For example, the social worker, children’s guardian or anyone else who is a party to proceedings.
Decisions about whether to commission expert evidence should be made early on in the proceedings. These decisions are usually at the case management hearing.