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When are Expert Witnesses Used in Divorce Cases?

Each year, approximately 26,000 married couples separate in Illinois. Most of these divorces are resolved outside of the courtroom. Of course, there are plenty of exceptions. For many different reasons—from disputes over the allocation of parental rights/responsibilities to disagreements over property division—you could end up locked in litigation with your spouse.

Your success in a court case ultimately depends on your ability to present a strong claim that is backed by supporting evidence. In some divorce cases, that evidence will include testimony from an expert witness. Here, our Naperville and Bolingbrook divorce lawyers explain the most important things you need to know about the role of expert witnesses in family law cases in Illinois.

Expert Witness: An Individual with Special Knowledge or Proficiency

A witness is someone who can provide important information or insight regarding a particular legal matter. Expert witnesses are contrasted with ‘fact’ witnesses. Whereas a fact witness helps to clarify what happened, an expert witness helps the court understand the meaning and implications of the things that occurred. Here are the two primary scenarios in which expert witnesses are used in divorce cases in Illinois: 

  • Complex Financial Matters: A financial expert may be called upon to help bring clarity to a dispute. Most often, this occurs when one (or both) parties own complex financial assets, such as a business or an investment. Though, such testimony may be appropriate to bring context to other financial matters as well.
  • Allocation of Parental Responsibilities: When parents are locked in a dispute over custody or visitation, courts generally need to determine what arrangement is in the best of the child. An expert witness — often a child psychologist or similar professional — may be able to provide much-needed context in a particular case.


Illinois Uses the ‘Frye Standard’ for Expert Witnesses 

Illinois has strict rules and procedures regarding expert witness testimony. An expert will not necessarily be permitted to testify in a divorce case or a family law case merely because one of the litigants wants them to testify. According to the Illinois Rules of Evidence, our state uses the ‘Frye Standard’ to determine the admissibility of expert witness testimony. 

Also known as the ‘general acceptable test,’ the Frye Standard states that testimony from an expert witness is only admissible in a court case if the methodology or scientific principle relied upon has been widely accepted as reliable and legitimate within the particular field of expertise. The test is designed to prevent judges/juries from hearing testimony that is not deemed sufficiently reliable. 

Speak to an Illinois Divorce Lawyer Today

At Keller Legal Services, our Illinois divorce attorneys offer effective, client-focused legal representation. We will work to get you the best outcome possible. If you have any questions about expert witnesses and family law, we can help. Contact our firm today to set up a free case evaluation. We handle divorce cases in Naperville, Bolingbrook, and throughout the surrounding communities in DuPage, Kane, Kendall, and Will counties.