Call Now

Call Now

Call Now


Expert Testimony from Social Workers: What May be Allowed?

In domestic cases, there may be a number of experts that are called upon to testify during a hearing. For example, a doctor may testify about a child’s medical condition, a CPA may testify about the value of a business, or a clinical psychologist may testify about a custody evaluation performed.

However, there are limitations to who is an expert and what witnesses can testify about. For example, under Indiana law, a licensed clinical social worker is prohibited from providing expert testimony1. Specifically, the Indiana statute allows that social workers can provide factual testimony (ex. the social worker met with the child on Tuesday and observed that the child’s demeanor was timid) but not expert testimony.

A recent Court of Appeals case examined the conflict between this Indiana statute and Indiana Rule of Evidence 7022, which does not contain the social worker exclusion for expert testimony. In B.H. & B.H. and T.H. vs. The Indiana Department of Child Services, the matter at hand involved testimony from a social worker regarding a parenting assessment called the Child Abuse Potential Inventory (CAPI) 3.

In this case, the children were adjudicated to be Children in Need of Services (CHINS). As such, Mother was offered services and a plan to regain custody of her children, including drug screens and services. Mother failed to abide by the plan, and a termination hearing was conducted. At this hearing, the social worker (with a master’s degree in social work) who had worked with Mother, testified about her administration of the CAPI test to Mother to determine the likelihood of Mother’s tendency to physically abuse the children.
The social worker testified that the CAPI test has been widely used for many years and is accepted in the psychiatric profession, which was subject to peer-reviewed studies. The social worker ultimately determined that Mother’s CAPI score indicated the children would be at risk in Mother’s care. Mother’s parental rights were terminated after the full hearing was conducted. Mother appealed the social worker’s expert testimony.

The trial court found that the social worker was an expert and allowed her testimony regarding the CAPI test. The Court of Appeals held that while there was a conflict between Indiana statute and the Rules of Evidence, the Rules of Evidence prevail. And, since the Rules of Evidence do not preclude a social worker from providing expert testimony, the social worker’s testimony was allowed. Further, Indiana case law had previously provided that Ind. Code §25-23.6-4-6 cannot prohibit a licensed clinical social worker from being qualified as an expert as Evidence Rule 702(a) allows that a witness may qualify as an expert on the basis of experience alone4.

The Court of Appeals upheld the termination of Mother’s parental rights. This ruling helped determine that while generally, under Indiana statutes a social worker cannot be an expert, that there are exceptions. Further, that when a state law is in conflict with the Rules of Evidence, the Rules of Evidence will prevail.

We hope that this blog post has been helpful in exploring the nuances of potential expert testimony involving social workers. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. practices throughout the state of Indiana. This blog post was written by attorney, Jessica Keyes.

  1. See Ind. Code §25-23.6-4-6
  2. Ind. Rule of Evidence 702(a)
  4. See Velaquez v. State, 944 N.E.2d 34 (Ind.Ct.App.2011)

We Listen & Care

Proven & experienced attorneys successfully advocating & resolving complex cases for over 25 years

Quick Contact

Need to talk now? Fill out the quick form below and we will contact you directly.
Blog Categories

Get In Touch

We're available to answer your questions 24/7.

Contact Us

Please fill out the form below and we will be in touch with you shortly.

Dixon & Moseley, P.C., is a law firm located in Indianapolis, Indiana. We serve clients in six core practice areas: family lawappellate practicefirearms lawgeneral practicepersonal injury and criminal law.

Call Now

Copyright © 2024 Ciyou & Dixon, P.C., Attorneys at Law. All rights reserved. This Site does not provide legal advice; please review the disclaimer for other limitations. Privacy Policy

Based in Indianapolis and founded in 1995, Dixon & Moseley, P.C. is a niche law firm focused on successfully dealing with the complexities of divorce, high-conflict child custody and family law. Known for their ability to solve extremely complex situations with high quality work and responsiveness, Dixon & Moseley, P.C. will guide you every step of the way. The family law attorneys at Dixon & Moseley, P.C. will help you precisely identify your objectives and the means to reach your desired result. Life is uncertain. Be certain of your counsel. Indianapolis Divorce Attorneys, Dixon & Moseley, P.C.

Indianapolis Divorce Attorneys, Dixon & Moseley, P.C. of Indianapolis, Indiana, offers legal services for Indianapolis, Zionsville, Noblesville, Carmel, Avon, Anderson, Danville, Greenwood, Brownsburg, Geist, Fortville, McCordsville, Muncie, Greenfield, Westfield, Fort Wayne, Fishers, Bloomington, Lafayette, Marion County, Hamilton County, Hendricks County, Allen County, Delaware County, Morgan County, Hendricks County, Boone County, Vigo County, Johnson County, Hancock County, and Tippecanoe County, Indiana.