Parenting & Time-Sharing §61.13(3) Part 11 of 19 | Divorce Attorney Fort Myers/Naples


(a)   Appointment of Mental Health Professional or Other Expert.

(1)   When the issue of visitation, parental responsibility, or residential placement of a child is in controversy, the court, on motion of any party or the court’s own motion, may appoint a licensed mental health professional or other expert for an examination, evaluation, testing, or interview of any minor child or to conduct a social or home study investigation. The parties may agree on the particular expert to be appointed, subject to approval by the court. If the parties have agreed, they shall submit an order including the name, address, telephone number, area of expertise, and professional qualifications of the expert. If the parties have agreed on the need for an expert and cannot agree on the selection, the court shall appoint an expert.

(2)   After the examination, evaluation, or investigation, any party may file a motion for an additional expert examination, evaluation, interview, testing, or investigation by a licensed mental health professional or other expert. The court upon hearing may permit the additional examination, evaluation, testing, or interview based on good cause shown that further examinations, testing, interviews, or evaluations would be in the best interests of the minor child.

(3)   Any order entered under this rule shall specify the issues to be addressed by the expert.

(4)   Any order entered under this rule may require that all interviews of the child be recorded and the tapes be maintained as part of the expert’s file.

(5)   The order appointing the expert shall include an initial allocation of responsibility for payment.

(6)   A copy of the order of appointment shall be provided immediately to the expert by the court unless otherwise directed by the court. The order shall direct the parties to contact the expert or investigator appointed by the court to establish an appointment schedule to facilitate timely completion of the evaluation.

(b)   Providing of Reports.

(1)   Unless otherwise ordered, the expert shall prepare and provide a written report to the attorney for each party or the party, if unrepresented, and the guardian ad litem, if appointed, a reasonable time before any evidentiary hearing on the matter at issue. The expert also shall send written notice to the court that the report has been completed and that a copy of the written report has been provided to the attorney for each party or the party, if unrepresented, and the guardian ad litem, if appointed. In any event, the written report shall be prepared and provided no later than 30 days before trial or 75 days from the order of appointment, unless the time is extended by order of the court.

(2)   On motion of any party, the court may order the expert to produce the expert’s complete file to another qualified licensed mental health professional, at the initial cost of the requesting party, for review by such qualified licensed mental health expert, who may testify.

(c)    Testimony of Other Professionals. Any other expert who has treated, tested, interviewed, examined, or evaluated a child may testify only if the court determines that good cause exists to permit the testimony. The fact that no notice of such treatment, testing, interview, examination, or evaluation of a child was given to both parents shall be considered by the court as a basis for preventing such testimony.

(d)   Communications with Court by Expert. No expert may communicate with the court without prior notice to the parties and their attorneys, who shall be afforded the opportunity to be present and heard during any such communication between the expert and the court. A request for communication with the court may be informally conveyed by letter or telephone. Further communication with the court, which may be conducted informally, shall be done only with notice to the parties.

(e)   Use of Evidence. An expert appointed by the court shall be subject to the same examination as a privately retained expert and the court shall not entertain any presumption in favor of the appointed expert’s findings. Any finding or report by an expert appointed by the court may be entered into evidence on the court’s own motion or the motion of any party in a manner consistent with the rules of evidence, subject to cross-examination by the parties. The report shall not be considered by the court before it is properly admitted into evidence.

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