How can you prepare for a deposition? The deposition process can be very intimidating. It’s a formal legal proceeding. It’s designed for information collection and to create a record of potential witnesses’ testimony.
During a deposition a court reporter types a transcript. An attorney asks questions. In some cases these questions are personal and combative.
However, you don’t have to let the process get the best of you. The following are some suggestions for how to handle a deposition.
Prepare for a Deposition: What to Do
1. Be honest.
Although you won’t be in a Courtroom, you’re still under oath, like you are in Court. Therefore, if you lie, falsify information, make false statements, etc… while you’re being deposed, it’s a serious offense and considered perjury. In addition, any inconsistencies can and likely will be used against you later or if there is a trial in Court.
2. Answer only what’s asked.
It’s not uncommon for people to talk a lot when they get nervous. However, when you’re being deposed, resist the urge to story tell. If you’re a person who is used to giving lots of details, keep it simple by focusing your response solely on answering the question at hand.
3. “I don’t know” and “I don’t understand” are perfectly acceptable answers if they are true.
If you don’t know or can’t recall the answer, or don’t understand the question – say so. It’s the deposing lawyer’s job to ask questions that the individual being deposed is able to answer and clarify difficult questions.
Sometimes during a deposition people feel so pressured to give an answer and/or they think it’s bad if they don’t know or have an answer that they make an assumption, guess or speculate. However, it’s much harder to change an answer given during a deposition later in Court, than it is, to expand on your answer after uncovering more information at a later date.
4. Stick to your guns if it’s the truth.
Don’t allow the deposing lawyer to twist your answers or get you to answer something that you don’t believe is right. For instance, a deposing attorney may ask you a question that assumes untruthful facts, in hopes that by responding to the question, you’re agreeing to those untruthful facts. Instead, don’t be swayed to change your answer or agree to statements that you don’t believe are true.
5. Be patient.
Listen carefully and completely to each question from the deposing lawyer before answering. Sometimes silence can feel so uncomfortable that we rush to an answer or fill the air with “Umms…” until we’ve processed a question. However, it’s perfectly okay to pause in order to collect yourself, process the question and provide a thoughtful response.
In fact, you may find it advantageous to pause after each question. If you pause briefly before responding to each question then when a more complex question comes along and you need more time- you’ll have it and feel less rushed.
In addition, besides giving you the opportunity to provide a thoughtful response, being patient and taking your time ensures that you wait to hear the whole question before answering and also gives your attorney the opportunity to object to any inappropriate or unnecessary questions. Lastly, being patient during the deposition will help you remain calm.
6. Remain calm.
During a divorce or family law deposition, be aware of emotionally-provoking questions. A brief pause to take a few deep breaths is better than an aggressive outburst that you can’t take back. Besides making you look bad, interrupting and/or talking over the deposing attorney makes it difficult for the court reporter to type and have an accurate record of the deposition. In addition, the deposing attorney may discover what pushes your buttons and later be able to use it against you.
7. Be Professional.
Some people get so nervous about presenting themselves in a desirable light that they become overly friendly during the deposition. Others, don’t take the deposition seriously enough and tell jokes. Instead, act in a professional manner. Show courtesy to those involved and be polite in your interactions.
Avoid swear words and sarcastic responses during the deposition. Just like you don’t have to like a co-worker, but you need to respect him/her – the same applies to the other party, the deposing attorney, the court reporter, etc… during a deposition.
For other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left or the FAQ page. If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation using the contact information on the left or the contact form on the Majeski Law home page. For other Court rules, please click here.