Are you being deposed in your divorce, custody or family law case? The deposition process (especially when you’re the one getting deposed) can be very intimidating. And understandably so. After all, most of us are uncomfortable during a job interview. So, if sitting in a room as a trained and experienced professional “sizes you up” and questions you with the intent of spotting inconsistencies in your statements isn’t your cup of tea… it just means you’re normal.
However, you don’t have to let your nerves get the best of you. Check out our deposition guide so you know what to expect, meet with your divorce or family law attorney, and don’t forget these seven tips when you’re getting deposed.
What to Do When Being Deposed in Your Divorce
1. Be honest.
Although you won’t be in a court room, you’re still under oath, like you are in court, during a deposition. Thus, 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.
2. Answer only what the deposing lawyer asks you.
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. After all, it’s the deposing lawyer’s job to ask questions that you (the individual being deposed) is able to answer and clarify questions you don’t understand. 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. And thus why, making assumptions, speculating, and/or guessing during a deposition can be a costly mistake and isn’t in your best interests.
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, an inexperienced 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 (and thus, for there to be moments of silence) in order to collect yourself, process the question and provide a thoughtful response. In fact, you may find it advantageous to pause (briefly) after each question. If you pause briefly before responding to each question (even when the question is incredibly easy – such as, “What’s your date of birth?”) 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, which is the next tip.
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, do you really want the deposing attorney (in most divorce and family law cases – the opposing attorney) to discover what pushes your buttons and later be able to use it against you in a trial?
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, you want to 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.