As if the whole concept of divorce wasn’t stressful enough, the process itself also includes some elements that can send your apprehension level through the roof. Learning that an attorney wants to take your deposition is one of those trigger points.
What should you do? What should you say? Can you hurt your case? The first thing to do is take a deep breath and review the facts. Make a list of questions for your attorney, remembering that the only “dumb” questions are the ones you don’t ask. Your attorney is your ally, and that they have been through this process many times before, so they understand how to protect your interests.
What a Deposition is All About
Depositions are part of the divorce process known as “discovery.” During the discovery phase of a legal proceeding, both sides are trying to gather as much information as possible. They may send formal requests for documents or send written questions known as interrogatories.
When an attorney wants to take your deposition, it means they want to ask you questions verbally in a formal setting where you will be responding verbally. The judge will not be in attendance, but you will be testifying under oath, and the statements you make in a deposition can be introduced later in court, so it is important to take the answers seriously. However, the judge may not even look at the transcript of the deposition unless one of the attorneys requests it.
Attorneys use depositions as a way to collect information but also as a way to gauge your effectiveness as a witness. In a certain sense, the deposition is like an audition—the other attorney wants to see if the judge will find you likable and believable. Of course, the attorney may also be trying to get you to say something that can be used against you, so you should prepare accordingly.
Tips for Testifying
Before the deposition, it is wise to meet with your attorney to discuss likely questions and how to answer those questions in a way that puts your best foot forward. You will probably not remember those answers word for word and that’s fine because you don’t want to appear rehearsed. But here are some general tips to keep in mind:
- Think before answering each question. Take your time—this is not an ordinary conversation.
- Make sure you understand what you are being asked. If you don’t understand or you need to have a question clarified or made more specific, say so.
- Don’t volunteer additional information. Answer the question as briefly as possible.
- If you’re not certain or don’t remember, don’t guess. Simply state the fact that you don’t know or don’t recall.
- Don’t fall for tricks. Attorneys will sometimes wait or repeat questions hoping you will add information or feel compelled to change your answer. If you answered accurately, stick to your answer.
- Be careful with documents. If the attorney asks you about a document, unless you know every word by heart, don’t answer unless they give you a copy to review. Read it thoroughly before answering.
- Listen for objections. Your attorney may object to a question, which will be noted on the record. They might instruct you not to answer, or you may be expected to answer anyway, but your attorney is protecting you by preserving the objection.
At the end, you will usually have the opportunity to review the transcript to ensure your testimony was recorded accurately. Your attorney can advise you whether to waive this step or to review the transcript.
An Experienced Divorce Lawyer Helps Protect Your Interests in All Phases of the Process
At Koiles Pratt Family Law Group, we are dedicated to protecting our clients at every stage of the divorce proceedings, particularly when it comes to critical episodes such as depositions. For a confidential consultation to learn how we could assist in your case, contact us today.