Before retaining a mental health professional to serve as an expert witness, it is important to understand the role of the expert witness and to find one who is the most qualified. Selecting the right expert witness can make or break the case. Consider the following suggestions prior to selecting an expert witness.
Review the qualifications and background of the potential expert.
You want the expert witness to be experienced in delivering courtroom testimony, as well as be highly qualified in the field. Professionals who lack experience are easy to discredit in court. Therefore, you should consider the following questions: Has the expert testified in cases similar to the litigation matter in which you are embroiled? Has the expert ever been deposed? Has the expert ever had cases when they have not been allowed to testify (e.g. failed to be qualified as an expert)? If so, what were the circumstances? What education and experience does the expert have that supports the status of expert witness? What publications and presentations has the expert provided and to which professional organizations?
Your attorney can contact the mental health professional to get extensive information about the mental health professional’s experience both in and out of the courtroom. Your attorney can also inquire about the number of times the mental health professional has appeared in court. Your attorney can also inquire about the expert’s fees. The expert’s fees should be comparable to other professionals in the field.
Professionalism means everything.
A strong expert witness recognizes the importance of advance preparation. The expert knows to come to court prepared for both direct examination and cross-examination. Courtroom testimony is not easy; therefore the role of the expert is to when to emphasize logic or emotion, as well as how to tailor the information to reach the judge and/or the jurors. The expert is highly skilled and can remain nondefensive and maintain composure when undergoing cross-examination.
A good expert witness is also able to testify in a clear, concise manner and is both confident and competent when presenting information to the Court. The expert must also appear knowledgeable and trustworthy to the judge and jury. Such qualities will strengthen the credibility of the expert’s opinions. The expert can see both sides of the case to support the recommendations/conclusion given during testimony.
Interview the expert witness before making a decision.
Family law cases can be quite complicated. Selecting a mental health professional who is unfamiliar with courtroom dynamics or who is not skilled in delivering court testimony can be a big mistake. A strong expert witness will be enthusiastic about doing expert witness testimony. Select someone who is willing to take the time to answer your questions about their background and experience.
For more information, please contact Dr. Ruth Moore.