No matter how hard couples try, there are certain issues that cannot be decided without intervention from the courts. Many of these cases involve rational, intelligent individuals who simply want what's fair for themselves or their children. As for the meaning of "fair", that's often a difficult concept to prove, considering that each spouse may be fighting for an outcome that seems no more or less fair than the other's. In order to strengthen their case, spouses may present a wide variety of evidence, including medical records, financial statements, lay witnesses, and expert testimony..
There are no limits to the types of experts that can be used in a divorce hearing, but they must be relevant to the issues at hand. Psychologists, especially family and child therapists, may be called to testify in custody and child support cases. Hearings involving complex financial issues such as hidden assets may benefit from the expert analysis of a forensic accountant. These professionals often help judges understand the technical aspects of complicated issues like a child's mental state, or a parent's ability to provide a safe and nurturing environment. There are, however, a strict set of guidelines that experts must follow when giving testimony in court.
Expert witness procedures can be found at the New Jersey Courts website at https://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/, but these guidelines are rather vague, and written in a manner that's difficult for the average person to understand. In essence, expert testimony must be based on the expert's personal experiences, or on scientifically and/or professionally reliable data. The reliability of expert data is one of the most contested issues in both civil and criminal cases, and it's not uncommon for rulings to be overturned based on analyses that are found be biased, misrepresentative or based on quack
science. Thus, it's extremely important that the experts you're planning on calling are "able to identify the factual bases for their conclusions, explain their methodology, and demonstrate that both the factual bases and methodology are reliable" (Landrigan v. Celotex Corp.).
Another important guideline has to do with hypothetical questions, which the New Jersey Supreme Court agreed on allowing, "provided that the questions include facts admitted or supported by the evidence." This statement is critical to ensuring that a hypothetical question is not used to support an expert's opinion that is unrelated to the case, or is not based on reliable evidence. In short, any testimony that cannot be backed up by professionally approved or scientifically proven methods may be stricken from the record, thereby being useless to your case.
For more information on using experts in a divorce hearing, or any other divorce trial-related issue, please speak with the experienced family law attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C. Our attorneys include mediators, a collaborative divorce attorney, and a matrimonial law attorney, who have decades of trial experience in the New Jersey family courts. Please find out about your rights and legal options during a free initial consultation.