What if the single expert is playing favourites?

What is a single expert and how are they appointed?

The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia – FCFCOA (Family Law) Rules of 2021 provides for the manner in which a single expert is to be appointed. The object of having a single expert is to resolve an issue which would otherwise remain in dispute and be indeterminable by a judge as it requires expertise in a given field of human endeavour- valuing jewellery, real estate or a business for example.

How should they conduct themselves?


Single experts must therefore not open themselves up to anything which can then impugn their conclusions or findings. The way in which they conduct themselves must be entirely transparent and professional. They especially cannot be seen to favour one party over the other. Rather, they are to consider the facts along with their given area of expertise to reach a conclusion and to offer an opinion. Their reputations are staked not only on the opinions expressed but the way they go about their involvement in any given family law matter. This does not mean they cannot be challenged on their opinion no matter how highly regarded they are as a single expert in their field. The greatest of experts can have their work discredited. However, what can be avoided by experts and lawyers alike is the way in which they go about their business.

Can my ex-partner speak to them without me knowing?


Communication with a single expert must always be joint communication and in writing so that nothing can be used in that regard to argue against the efficacy of an opinion. Their behaviour and conduct must be above reproach, and nothing can occur which would open the single expert up to scrutiny – save for the opinion expressed. In other words, it is not worth their while to side with one party against the other and lose their professional reputation. The rules are unequivocal as to what must happen even if there is a seemingly innocent or inadvertent communication with a single expert; “Parties cannot communicate unilaterally with single experts unless otherwise permitted, and if unilateral communication occurs this must be immediately provided to all other parties”.

Where Caroline Counsel Family Lawyers can assist is with ensuring that the single expert is engaged in the right way, pursuant to the Rules and then communicated with so that nothing can be leveraged at the single expert to impugn the efficacy of their role or report.  Single expert reports can be expensive so you do not wish to run the risk of inept or ill informed communication.  We can also identify, assess and negotiate the right single expert for your matter.  They can make a considerable impact to how your pool of assets is valued.  It is important they know what they are doing.  When the other lawyer fails to follow the Rules, Caroline Counsel Family Lawyers can also tackle that issue to ensure that the right outcome is achieved.

The Rules level the playing field between parties and curtail the ability of one party to influence the single expert. It protects you as the client so whilst the conclusions of a single expert may be capable of being challenged, the way in which they have proceeded to act in preparation of their report is in the vast majority of cases – beyond reproach. If not, their career as a single expert will be short lived.


Jordan Reichhold

Senior Associate

Caroline Counsel Family Lawyers

E: [email protected]

P: +61 3 9320 3900

The information in this blog does not constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon by you. If you require advice specific to your situation you must contact Caroline Counsel Family Lawyers. The contents of this blog are relevant as of 22 February 2024. We recommend you obtain specific advice relevant to you and your family’s situation.

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