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  • amyjlbaker

What is Success?

When prospective expert witness clients call to find out about my services and fees, one question they often ask is whether I believe that my services are successful. I truly understand the motivation underlying this question. Bringing an expert witness onto a legal team increases costs and most people want to know that they will get their money’s worth. However, this is not a question that can easily be answered. Here’s why.

Partial Wins

First, if a client files a motion asking for ten things and is awarded some but not all of them, is that a success? Some would say so while others may not. Who am I to say whether that is a success or not.

Custody Settlements

Second, some clients settle prior to my testifying or after I have testified but before the judge has ruled. Is that a success? It depends on what is in the settlement agreement, which I had little if anything to do with. In a few cases, I conducted the case file review but the client never filed a motion.

Expert Witness Testimony

Third, some people “win” in court but things still don’t turn out how they want while others “lose” in court but things end up well after all. Was my testimony a success? One parent won a reversal of custody and had some very positive moments of connection with her son but, because she was forbidden in the ruling to participate in therapy with him, the breach was not fully healed and he eventually returned to the alienating parent. Conversely, one father I have worked with lost in court and did not gain full custody but he has managed to have a positive relationship with two of his three children.

Inconsistent Followups from Alienated Parents

Fourth, I don’t always know what happened once I have submitted my report or testified. No one is obligated to keep me apprised and as much as I care what happens to all of my clients, I don’t always have the time to keep up with all of them, especially as the family dynamics continue to evolve over time.

After Family Court

Fifth, as noted above, situations continue to evolve even after a decision is handed down. One side or the other can still file yet another motion to appeal or because of a change in circumstances. Children become more or less alienated due to factors outside of the courts as well.

What I can say is that I have been nearly 100% successful at passing the voir dire. In every case that I have been submitted as an expert, I have been accepted by the court as an expert. I can also say that I have been 100% successful in passing daubert/mohan/porter hearings in which opposing counsel wanted a full hearing of the scientific merits of parental alienation theory prior to my testifying about a specific case. I have had that happen three times and I passed all three times. I can also say that in most (but not all) cases, I have been successful at engaging the judge’s attention while I was testifying. That is the only measure of success I feel I have a right to claim.

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