Research and analysis

Use of experts in family law

Understanding the processes for commissioning experts and the contribution they make to the family court

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Detail

Changes to the way the family court can instruct experts were reflected in new Family Procedure Rules on 31 January 2013 and later enshrined in legislation with the Children and Families Act 2014. This report presents the findings of a study designed to explore the processes by which experts are appointed in light of the new rules and to develop an understanding of the contribution experts make to just and timely decisions in the family court.

This mixed-methods study comprised 2 phases. Data collection exercises in Phase 1 included an online survey and focus groups with professionals involved in family law proceedings, interviews with the judiciary and a quantitative case analysis to examine the timeliness of expert reports. In Phase 2, materials from closed family law cases were used to guide discussion and evaluate aspects of the expert process during discussion groups.