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Using Experts And Consultants In A Family Law Case

Experts and consultants can both be used to strategically bolster your family law case. Determining whether to use an expert or a consultant depends on your specific needs, and the difference between the two can be nuanced. An expert is an individual who has in-depth knowledge concerning a specific topic. A consultant is an individual who has widespread knowledge concerning a specific category of topics.

Consider this medical care example: a general practitioner could pinpoint an issue with her patient’s heart but would not perform an open-heart surgery on her patient. Instead, a cardiac surgeon would perform the surgery. In this hypothetical, the general practitioner would be considered a consultant and the cardiac surgeon would be considered the expert. Both have training and medical degrees, but one is more focused on a specific part of the body while the other has a broad approach to the body as a whole.

What is the legal standard?

In deciding whether a witness qualifies as an expert or a consultant at trial, the judge employs the Daubert test in order to determine whether their testimony is reliable. The name “Daubert” comes from a 1993 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court outlined four factors to consider:

  1. Is the theory/methodology testable?
  2. Is the information published and subject to peer review?
  3. What is the potential rate of error, if any?
  4. Is the information generally accepted within its field?

Based on the answers to the above questions, the judge will decide whether the evidence meets the criteria to be admitted as expert or consultant testimony.


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