Attorneys often engage experts to review the work of other mental health experts, provide assistance with the examination or cross-examination of other expert witnesses and mental health professionals, or develop a case strategy regarding their client's view of what is in the best interests of their children. There may also be times when additional limited evaluations are needed to support a party's presentation of their case. Dr. Dale's dual training as a psychology and an attorney provides him with a unique lens and insights into the processes for which expert assistance is most valuable. Expert consultations can be tailored to the attorney's needs and the dynamics of the case.
I. Review of the Work Product & Report of a Child Custody or Parenting Time Evaluator
While attorneys are experts at the law and may be excellent in presenting your legal case, they may not be as familiar with some of the psychological concepts and methods used by custody evaluators. Dr. Dale's knowledge of the expectations of custody/parenting time evaluators can help the attorney identify strengths and weaknesses of these reports that may prove invaluable to the attorney's development of a case narrative and litigation strategy.
Dr. Dale has written three published articles with Jonathan W. Gould Ph.D. (ABPP), a nationally recognized child custody consultant and expert. These articles are available in the Knowledge Center section.
II. Options for Use of Experts After the Work Product Review
* Expert Testimony on the Methodology and Data Analysis in the Evaluator's Report
If the expert witness case review yields deficiencies in the evaluation report, what happens next becomes very important. The attorney may choose to have the expert reviewer provide testimony. The expert witness can offer testimony during depositions and/or court regarding the deficiencies identified in the review of the evaluation report. In anticipation of this kind of testimony, the expert witness reviewer prepares and submits a report outlining their review procedures and their assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the evaluation report. The expert witness may include preparation of questions that facilitate their testimony.
* Litigation Support on the Evaluator's Report and Other Issues in the Case
Using an expert to provide litigation support often helps an attorney become more effective in their advocacy. Dr. Dale can provide assistance in preparing for trial and other litigation support services to the requesting attorney. When an evaluation is unfavorable to the attorney's client, this assistance usually takes the form of identifying general areas of inquiry and specific questions for the cross-examination of the evaluator. When the report is favorable but a challenge is expected from the other side, litigation support can help with strategies for organizing an examination of a favorable evaluator witness or for responding to the opposing parties' efforts to undermine the credibility of the expert or the report. Litigation support can occur prior to trial or at trial. Litigation support at trial consists of listening to testimony and suggesting cross-examination questions based on the evaluator’s testimony.
* Limited Parenting Evaluation/Data Collection After Case Review
And finally, the expert witness can perform a limited parenting evaluation addressing aspects of the custody evaluator’s initial evaluation that the party believes inaccurately portray certain data or issues. Here, the expert witness will seldom, if ever, be able to collect enough data to render an opinion about legal custody, residency, or parenting time because the favored party in the initial evaluation is unlikely to participate in another evaluation. An ethical expert witness cannot provide an opinion about a person he has not met or evaluated. When collecting additional data after an allegedly deficient review or as part of a limited parenting evaluation, the expert witness must qualify his findings as limited due to his inability to complete a more comprehensive evaluation.