Expert Evidence - You’ve got an opinion? Are you sure about that?
You’ve got an opinion? Are you sure about that?
Are you an expert?
If I had a dollar for every time that someone told us here at Butlers, “I think my ex has bi-polar” or “He definitely has narcissistic tendencies. I Googled it and he absolutely fits the description” or “I am telling you, she has OCD. I am sure of it. She just hasn’t been diagnosed yet” or something along those lines, I probably wouldn’t need to be working so much.
We have all been warned by doctors against self-diagnosis and so we should probably also stay away from diagnosing our former partners with various illnesses and issues upon separation (even though it’s a really easy thing to do when you’re trying to explain away or describe your former partner’s actions), especially in a family law context.
Why? Because unfortunately you’re not qualified to give that opinion.
Sure you can set out the particulars of your former partner’s behaviour. For example, you can say things like “He was fastidious about our child not having dirty hands” or “One minute she was crying and inconsolable and 5 minutes later she was laughing and smiling” but to come to a medical conclusion is something else.
Also, what if four different people have four different opinions? What then?
Fortunately, the Family Law Rules provide a method for appointing what is known as a Single Expert in family law cases. The idea behind the Rules is that couples come to an agreement to appoint one qualified expert to provide an independent opinion, which the couple agrees to be bound by. That expert can also be questioned by the couple, their legal representatives and the Court about their opinion; and there are rules about each person communicating with the expert without the other knowing what was said. The same rules apply to experts in other fields too, for example, property valuers.
The other great things about appointing a Single Expert in accordance with the Family Law Rules is that not only does the Single Expert’s opinion clarify the issues, if your former partner does actually have bi polar, narcissistic tendencies, OCD, more and/or all of the above, the opinion sounds much better coming from them, not you – because they’re qualified and independent, not someone who is in the middle of the family law dispute.