A single expert witness helps the Court to determine the best interest of a child. The expert’s report will recommend to the court parenting arrangements.
Court proceedings that involve children require the expertise of child psychologists who are competent to help in the determination of a child’s best interests. The Family Law Act 1975 has placed a premium on the child’s best interests such that it is the foundation of parenting orders.
The single expert witness will be aiding the court in coming up with a parenting plan for the child. The expertise of the psychologist is instrumental in formulating an arrangement for the child that will foster a meaningful and positive relationship with both of his parents.
The expert has the difficult task of assessing the relationship of the child with his parents and the other relevant persons in his life. In making the parenting plan, the expert will attempt to attain a balance between the child’s best interest and the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility.
There are bound to be many complex issues that the expert will face in his assessment. Some of the issues that have to be considered by the expert are allegations of domestic violence, sexual abuse, child abuse, conflict between the parents, neglect, alcoholism and substance abuse, and unemployment. The aforementioned issues will affect the formulation of a parenting plan.
The abilities and behaviour of the parents will be subject to close scrutiny by the expert. He will be observing the interaction of the child with his parents, grandparents, carers and other relevant people. The expert will be looking out for facts. He will be disregarding biases, assumptions, stereotypes and subjectivity in his assessment.
Apart from interviews and meetings, the expert will also be looking at the child’s developmental history by poring over school and medical records. Psychometric testing and achievement tests might even be conducted to further gauge the psychological and cognitive development of the child. Information obtained through records and tests will provide insight to the extent of a parents’ participation in the child’s total development. Also, the needs of the child can be gleaned through records and tests.
After consideration of all the information gathered the expert will make a report and submit it to the court. The report will contain his recommendations for parenting arrangements which the court will take into account in making the parenting plan.
The expert will be executing an affidavit prepared by the court for a single expert witness and this will be attached to the report. A summary of the instructions given to the expert and a list of all documents relied upon in making the report must also be attached. The expert may then be asked to testify in court.