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The Use of Experts in Custody Cases

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When it comes to high asset divorce and custody cases, a family lawyer may refer clients to additional resources to assist with a specific case or situation. These resources can often include other professionals, whose expert witness testimony may be considered by a judge in the Court. The use of experts in custody cases can be especially helpful. This is because they provide supplementary evidence and an outside, objective opinion. These help a judge to make more informed decisions regarding primary custody of a child or how parenting decisions should be shared

The following list contains the most commonly used experts in custody cases.


The Court may opt to have a psychologist evaluate one or both parents, the child, and/or any other person who will be in the child’s household in certain child custody situations. These particular experts provide impartial opinions relating to the psychological well-being and best interests of the child.

Additionally, psychologists may use information gathered from their evaluations to weigh in on other matters. This includes decision-making, visitation for non-parents, and other parenting issues. These evaluations often also focus on allegations regarding restricted parenting time, such as when the case involves abuse and neglect. A psychologist may even be brought in to determine whether custody should be terminated altogether.

If one enlists the help of this expert in custody cases, there is an important factor to note. In some cases, a psychologist or other mental-health professional may be barred from testifying in the case as an expert. According to recent amendments to the IMDMA, the legislature specified in the new statutory language that communications within court-ordered counseling cannot be used in litigation whatsoever. Counseling is to remain entirely confidential.

Guardian ad Litems

Who Is A Guardian ad Litem?

In the state of Illinois, a Guardian ad Litem is a specially trained individual, usually an attorney or a mental-health professional, appointed by the family court. As part of their training, these individuals investigate issues regarding custody or visitation. Their primary goal is to provide a recommendation as to the best interest of the child or children involved.

When Are They Used In Custody Cases?

The Court appoints a Guardian ad Litem in cases where allocation of parental responsibilities (custody and visitation) are at issue in the case. In these instances the Court thinks a GAL will be valuable in assisting them in determining the best interests of the child. In family court, custody cases that may involve these particular experts often involve:

  • Initial custody determinations in divorce cases
  • Modification of decision-making or parenting time cases
  • Parentage cases
  • Adoptions
  • Grandparent visitation or non-parent visitation cases

In these situations, the guardian ad litem observes, documents and reports on the parents as well as the child. They then provide their recommendations to the Court, either in a written report or by giving testimony at trial.

Speech Pathologists, Physicians and Other Medical Providers

Speech pathologists, physicians, and other medical providers can often provide supplemental evidence, as well as an outside opinion regarding child custody. This is specifically as it relates to any physical health conditions of any of the parties involved. When allocating parenting time and decision-making, the mental and physical health of the parents and the child(ren) need to be considered by the Court.

In certain situations, the Court or a family attorney may call upon the use of these particular experts. For example, a particular case may require a physician to provide medical records or weigh in on medical decisions involving the child. This is especially true in cases where the parents are not in agreement as to issues such as medical treatment, hospitalization, or surgeries.

Similarly, speech pathologists may look at the child’s development, specifically in terms of their speech and language. In addition, the Court may ask other medical providers, such as an occupational or physical therapist, to provide an account of a child’s medical condition. This then informs the Court as to what the child may need as it relates to a parenting time schedule. Additionally, the Court may also ask for their observations when it comes to the child’s mental and emotional well-being and overall development.

When Should You Use An Expert in Your Child Custody Case?

Ultimately, your situation will decide whether the Court will appoint an expert for your custody case. Every family is unique. Similarly, every case is also unique. Your family lawyer will help you decide whether one of the above experts would be beneficial. Additionally, they will connect you with additional resources. These resources will assist you with your custody case. They will also help you navigate any stress or anxiety you may feel along with way.

Contact Strieker Law Firm to learn more about how we can help with your family law case.