Many family law disputes are complicated. In certain circumstances, an expert witness may need to be brought in to help bring clarity to a specialized matter. Minnesota has strict rules and procedures regarding the use of expert witnesses. In this article, our Mankato family lawyers highlight the most important things you should know about expert witness testimony in family court cases in Minnesota.
Expert Witnesses Help to Put Complex Issues in Context
As a starting point, it is useful to distinguish an expert witness from a fact witness. A fact witness is someone who has personal knowledge of the events that occurred. In contrast, an expert witness is an individual with specialized knowledge or proficiency is a given field who can help by providing testimony that puts the facts of the case into the proper context. In family law, there are two primary scenarios when expert witness testimony is used:
Financial Matters: Many family law cases involve complex financial matters. For example, a divorcing couple may be in a conflict over the value of certain real property. A qualified financial professional, such as a forensic accountant, may be called upon to give expert testimony.
Child-Related Matters: In some cases, expert witnesses may be brought into to help resolve a complex child custody or child visitation dispute. Most often, these experts are child psychologists or another similar professional who has specialized, relevant expertise. In practice, a child-related expert witness can give testimony pertaining to many different specific issues.
Know the Standard for Expert Witness Admissibility in Minnesota
A family law court will only allow an expert witness to provide testimony if and when certain criteria are met. Our state relies on the so-called ‘Frye-Mack test’ to determine the admissibility of an expert witness. Under Minnesota law (Minn. R. Civ. P. Rule 702), a court will allow expert witness testimony if:
- The expert has scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge;
- The testimony is relevant and will assist the court in resolving a fact in issue; and
- The expert witness is providing an opinion that has foundational reliability.
Expert witness testimony matters. Studies have consistently demonstrated that this type of testimony can be compelling and persuasive. If needed, it is crucial that you have access to the right experts. Similarly, unreliable expert witnesses should not be permitted to give testimony against your interests. An experienced Minnesota family lawyer can help you navigate the potentially thorny issue of expert witnesses.
Call Our Mankato, MN Family Lawyer for Legal Guidance and Support
At Kohlmeyer Hagen, Law Office Chtd., our Minnesota family law attorneys are passionate, trustworthy advocates for clients. We help people and families find answers and solve problems. If you have questions about expert testimony and family law, we can help. Contact our firm at 507-625-5000 for a confidential case evaluation. With a legal office in Mankato, we handle complex family law cases throughout Southern Minnesota, including in Rochester, Cortland, St Peter, Waterville, Le Center, and Montgomery.