Late last May, the Florida Supreme Court issued an opinion called In re Amendments to the Florida Evidence Code. As a spouse contemplating divorce or a parent potentially facing a parental responsibility/timesharing case, you may think that a thing like a Supreme Court opinion on “amendments to the Florida Evidence Code” would be some sort of “hyper-technical lawyer thing” that would have little or no impact on your case. And, quite possibly, you’d be wrong in thinking that. Of course, it really isn’t reasonable to expect you, as a non-lawyer, to be keeping up with all the new changes to the Florida Rules of Evidence. This is a great reason, among a host of others, why it pays to have a knowledgeable Florida attorney on your side. Your experienced Fort Lauderdale family law attorney is going to be up to date on all of those changes and how to use those amended rules to your maximum benefit.
That May opinion from the Supreme Court altered the way that trial courts analyze whether or not expert evidence is admissible proof in a case. Up until the Supreme Court’s opinion, the rules for determining whether expert evidence was admissible were contained in a 1923 federal appellate case. Going forward, Florida’s rules of evidence for expert evidence admissibility will rely much more on a 1993 U.S. Supreme Court case called Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals.
Under the new rules in Florida, expert evidence is admissible if the testimony “is based upon sufficient facts or data” and “is the product of reliable principles and methods.” Additionally, the expert witness advancing that testimony must have “applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.”
At this point, you may be thinking… Wait, mine is just an ordinary divorce case (or custody case,) so I wouldn’t need that kind of elaborate and highly technical evidence, right? Isn’t that kind of evidence just for things like medical malpractice, auto accident, patent or commercial contract cases?
Actually, expert evidence is not uncommon in family law cases.
Your divorce case may involve contested issues related to equitable distribution, which may mean that the value of certain assets could be in dispute. An expert witness who is an accountant, economist or a specialist in the area related to that asset (such as a real estate professional who offers expert testimony about the value of a piece of land) may be someone who can greatly enhance your arguments about how the marital estate should be equitably distributed. A dispute over alimony may be a case where a vocational expert in your profession may be able to provide evidence about the amount of income you could reasonably be expected to earn. (The same may be true about your vocational expert and your spouse’s potential earnings.)
Your parental responsibility and timesharing case may also be a dispute where an expert can help your case. Your expert might be an accomplished specialist in the field of child psychiatry, pediatric medicine or elementary and secondary education. Any of these experts may be someone who can provide the judge with proof that your arguments about parental responsibility and timesharing are correct and are supported by compelling evidence.
Each year, the legislature and the courts consider many possible changes to the statutes and court rules and, each year, some of them become reality. Rely on the skilled South Florida divorce attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. to have the up-to-date knowledge needed to give you the most accurate legal advice, along with wise strategies for how to use new rules changes or statutory amendments to the maximum benefit of your case. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.