During your divorce, you may be required to have your deposition taken. It’s part of what the rules refer to as “discovery.” A deposition is where you are asked live questions by your spouse’s attorney under oath. If your spouse’s attorney schedules your deposition, it will be a very important part of your case.
Most people have never had their deposition taken so they aren’t aware of what to expect. As with most anything in life, being prepared for what you will encounter is half the battle. It can seem overwhelming, but if you follow these ten tips, you will ensure that you are as well prepared as possible.
- Depositions are not conversations. Depositions are formal, legal proceedings. However, everyone involved in any type of litigation has a natural urge to tell their story. Resist this urge. The time to tell your story will be at trial when a judge is there to hear you. Opposing counsel is conducting this deposition to learn everything he or she can about your case. You are not there to make the other side understand your story. Be polite, but do not make small talk. If there is no question pending, do not say anything.
- Think before you answer. Take your time. Make sure you understand the questions. Do not tell the attorney asking the questions what you think he or she wants to know.
- Keep your answer short. When you give lengthy answers, you are revealing more information and giving opposing counsel ideas for more questions. And only answer the question asked of you.
- Never guess. You might be wrong. “I don’t know” IS an answer. If you do not understand the question, say so. You may say, “What do you mean by that?”
- Do not volunteer any information. If there is silence, do not fill it in with talk.
- Do not get angry. Becoming angry will sometimes make you reveal too much information and will send the message that you are ill-prepared to be a witness and that you cannot control yourself. The attorney for the other side will try to take advantage of that weakness at your deposition and at trial.
- Make eye contact. Look at the attorney asking you questions. Stay calm.
- Stop talking when your attorney objects. There are two types of objections. Neither can be made if you are talking. When your attorney says, “I object,” stop talking. The purpose of the objection may be merely to mark a place in the transcript where an important question and answer can be deleted by the Court. If this happens during the deposition, your attorney will permit you to answer the question after the objection. On the other hand, some questions are completely improper and should never get an answer. In such a situation, your attorney will tell you not to answer the question. Follow these instructions. The other side may then obtain a court order to get an answer.
- Do not disclose anything your attorney has told you. Everything your attorney tells you is privileged and is not subject to an involuntary disclosure to any third party, including opposing counsel. Anything your attorney’s paralegal and secretaries have said to you verbally or in writing is also privileged. Never volunteer such information. If a question is calling for such information, your attorney will object and instruct you not to answer.
- You cannot win your case at a deposition. There is rarely any scenario where you can “win” your case with your testimony at a deposition.
If you follow these ten tips when you are being deposed, your deposition will go well and not be excessively long. For best results, be prepared and understand what is expected of you by your attorney.
With a combined 30 years in family law, the attorneys at Jones Family Law Group, LLC, are highly experienced in high conflict divorces where depositions are common. We can provide the legal guidance you need.