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Civil news: new standards for experts in family cases involving children

Changes to Practice Direction 25B covering expert witness payments in family matters.

Changes have been implemented in Practice Direction 25B to introduce standards for expert witnesses acting in family matters involving disputes about children.

What we pay for

Subject to any order made by the court, the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) will only pay for expert witnesses in family matters relating to children where experts comply with those practice directions.

The standards apply to care and supervision proceedings, adoption proceedings and those private law cases relating to child arrangement orders that remain within the scope of legal aid.

When the changes apply from

They apply to all expert instructions that take place on/after 1 October 2014 regardless of the date that the certificate/controlled work was granted. It will assist in processing your claim if you can confirm the date of instruction of the expert on submission.

Responsibility for compliance with the standards in the practice directions rests with individual experts. However, providers must be able to satisfy themselves that an expert meets the standards.

Evidence needed

Providers must have systems in place to evidence that the experts they use meet the standards. This would typically involve retaining copies of an expert’s CV and signed ‘statement of truth’.

When making applications for expert witness funding, providers will need to confirm that their instructed expert meets the standards.

In exceptional circumstances where this isn’t the case, an order from the court will need to be provided.

This should specify why instruction of an expert who does not meet the standards should be used in a case. A copy of that expert’s CV should also be included.

Form changes

Changes have been made to relevant paper forms in certificated cases to enable providers to confirm that an expert meets the standards.

For legal help escape cases you should attach a note to the claim confirming adherence to the standards.

Changes will also be made to the Client and Cost Management System (CCMS) in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, providers should confirm an expert’s adherence to the standards in the ‘bill narrative’ section of CCMS.

Further information

Justice website: Practice Direction 25B