Let’s go Dutch! Expert report fees in family disputes

Year Published: 2013

The Supreme Court has made a difficult decision about who should pay the cost of an expert witness in proceedings about children.

In order to make a decision about a child’s life and what is in that child’s best interests, the court sometimes requires an expert to provide their opinion in a report. Reports can be expensive and following the abolition of legal aid in most family cases this is going to affect more and more families in proceedings.

So who should pay for these reports? In a recent case, both parents were acting for themselves and could not afford to pay for the report the court needed to make a decision about their child’s future. In some cases children are represented by their own solicitor and could receive legal aid. Because of this, the parents requested that if the child had legal aid funding, why couldn’t the legal aid agency pay for the report?

The legal aid agency said: ‘It cannot be right for the legal aid fund to be expected to pay for the entire costs of reports in order to subsidise a private law dispute, where neither parent is prepared to pay their share.’

While the judge acknowledged this was very difficult, apart from very rare cases, the cost of expert reports will be shared equally between all the parties. This will inevitably leave some courts in the position where a report is required but no one can afford to pay for it.

There are many complicated aspects of family proceedings, cost being one aspect. Taking advice early is recommended as it can assist you in understanding the processes of the court, what you may have to pay for and what the cost could be, enabling you to budget if you find you are unable to avoid proceedings. 

If you require specialist advice to help you to navigate your way through family proceedings then please contact a member of our family team on 0161 475 7676.

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