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Over the past decade I have served as expert witness in custody and removal cases, in which (so far) the mother has received a secure (tenure track/tenured) academic job offer, and the father has tried to prevent her move, with the children, to take the job.
Fathers make all sorts of claims about academic hiring which appear plausible to the lay audience (and this includes lawyers and judges). For example: “anyone with such an advanced degree like the PhD should be able to find work ANYWHERE and does not need to leave the area,” or “there are tons of universities right here in the city where she could work, she just didn’t try hard enough.”
We in academia know this is preposterous. Getting any tenure track job offer at all is akin to winning the lottery, and probably will happen only once at most in a person’s lifetime. And some 75-85% of PhDs will not get a tenure track offer at all. But outside academia, nobody knows that. A large segment of academics don’t even know that (or, refuse to believe it).
That’s where I come in. I provide the facts and figures of academic hiring both in general, and then for the appellant’s specific discipline. I review the person’s CV in order to make a case about scholarly accomplishments and career trajectory, and listen to the nature of the claims being made against the move so that I can develop evidence that speaks directly to it. I pull all the threads together to demonstrate that the move for the secure position, by being in the best interest of the (inevitably) primary caregiver mother, is certainly in the best interests of the children.
I draw on my own protracted and appalling custody case – which dragged on for seven years — and countless hours spent in the courtroom and in depositions, with a highly conflictual ex and ex’s attorney (who actually put me in physical danger for being gay). I know far more than I ever wanted about the workings of courtrooms and the logic (or lack thereof) of custody cases. I also know to what levels ex’s and their attorneys will stoop to destroy womens’ ability to move forward in life and provide for their children.
I am, needless to say, an extremely effective witness, and all except one case has been successful (I don’t claim that’s all because of me but I know I helped; I have seen the looks of shocked comprehension on the judge’s and attorneys’ faces as I lay out the data). The one case I am not sure about I suspect was not successful as the lawyer mishandled basic court process such that I was disqualified from testifying at the last minute.
Sometimes I don’t testify directly but just advise the attorney on academic employment.
If I encountered a situation where I did not believe the case would result in the best interests of the children, I would decline the work, but I have not encountered that yet. To date I have testified or been deposed in about ten cases. I am working on one right now.
So, please be aware that I do this work, and please share this information widely. I make financial arrangements that are manageable for the client. I consider this mission work and while I hope optimally to have my time compensated to a degree, this is not a profit-making enterprise for me and I will make whatever arrangements are necessary.
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