Expert panels for marital disputes

04 February 2013

An innovative idea is proposing using expert panels to adjudicate issues raised during marital disputes

Courts have not traditionally used experts to decide financial and custodial issues themselves. The use of panels of non-legal experts have been successful in other matters but this method has never been applied in matrimonial cases. This multidisciplinary approach will reduce time and cost while the quality of the ruling improves.

The Court that is legally responsible to decide matrimonial cases would create a Committee to receive, review and appoint a panel to hear contested cases. The Court would appoint the Committee Members consisting of distinguished lawyers, accountants and psychologists.

They are not paid for their work. However, they understand the importance of their responsibilities and work diligently. The Committee is supported by a staff of one administrator and several assistants.

The Committee would make policy and appoint lawyers, accounts and psychologist to hear and report on matrimonial cases to the Court. All documents would be filed with the Court. Emergency applications, such as temporary restraing orders would be submitted to the Judge, then the case would be referred to the Committee to appoint the panel for an immediate hearing. The parties would submit pre-hearing Stipulation specifying undisputed facts, facts in dispute, the parties’ contentions, documents to be offered in evidence at the hearing, witnesses to be called.

The administrator will notify the parties and contact panel members. All proceedings will be private and confidential. The parties can appear with counsel or pro se. The hearing shall commence within 60 days after referral to the Administrator and shall be conducted on consecutive days. The panel may limit witnesses' testimonyit to eliminate unduly repetitious or cumulative evidence. The attorney shall rule on the admissibility of all evidence. Hearings would be recorded. The panel shall prepare a findings of fact and conclusions of law.

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