As a family judge, and now the judge responsible for the family justice system throughout England and Wales, I am very pleased to be able to address this conference and to take the opportunity to say something about the role of experts in family proceedings, the role of experts more generally before concluding, on a topic which may be of general interest to each of you, by saying something about the radical changes which are currently being developed and implemented in every court and tribunal and in every area of jurisdiction, be it criminal, civil or family law.
Experts in Cases relating to Children
In contrast, I think, to any other area of litigation, cases involving the welfare of children almost always require the input of a professional expert other than a lawyer or judge. A family court judge, and by using that phrase I include lay magistrates, is not professionally qualified to assess and advise upon matters of child development, children’s emotional well-being and, more generally, matters regarding a child’s welfare. Whilst the judge will, hopefully, apply common sense and common knowledge to their decision-making, in every case where a local authority seek a care or supervision order for the protection of children, and in virtually every case where 2 parents are arguing about the future arrangements for their children’s care, the court will receive professional social work evidence from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (‘CAFCASS’) and/or from a local authority social worker….