Tips for giving your divorce or family law deposition

One of the tools for discovery in a divorce is the use of depositions. A deposition is your testimony, under oath. You will be sworn in and will truthfully answer questions asked by the opposing attorney. The questions and answers will be recorded by a court reporter. In fact, the testimony given in a deposition is similar to testimony given in the courtroom except a judge does not preside in the case of a deposition.

The purpose of a fact-finding deposition is: 1) to determine what your story is and your knowledge of the facts in regard to the divorce; 2) to know in advance, if the case goes to court, what you are contending; 3) to possibly narrow the issues in the divorce; 4) to try to catch you in an omission or untruth that can later be used in court to discredit your testimony.

Your family law attorney will prepare you and be by your side during the deposition. He/she may ask you questions, primarily to clarify an answer. In addition, your attorney will have the same right to take a deposition of the opposing party and witnesses.

1. TELL THE TRUTH. This is the most important commandment. Failure to tell the truth in a deposition constitutes perjury and will discredit your complete testimony.

2. LISTEN CAREFULLY TO THE QUESTION. Make sure you hear correctly and understand the question. Wait until the question is finished before beginning to answer. Seek clarification, if needed. It may be helpful to repeat the question in your head so you can give your best answer. Give your lawyer the opportunity to interject a timely objection. Then answer the question asked, and only that question.

3. ANSWER THE QUESTION CLEARLY AND SIMPLY. It is important to make the answer a short one. Any question that can be answered "yes" or "no" should be.

4. ANSWER THE QUESTION AND ONLY THE QUESTION. Answer what you have been asked, truthfully and completely with the shortest answer; not want you think may be relevant or what you think should have been asked.

5. DO NOT VOLUNTEER INFORMATION OR GUESS OR SPECULATE. Answer the question asked and no more. Never explain or justify your answer. Never guess or speculate. If you do not know the answer to the question, say so.

6. REFER TO EXHIBITS IF THEY CONTAIN INFORMATION THAT IS NECESSARY TO ANSWER QUESTIONS. You may be asked to read, describe or interpret information that is a part of an exhibit. You should carefully read and review the exhibit before complying. If you need an exhibit to accurately answer a question, you should say so.

7. DO NOT HURRY. Don't be too anxious to have the deposition over by answering quickly. By so doing, the likely effect will be opposite and prolong the deposition. A brief pause between the end of a question and the beginning of your answer gives your lawyer sufficient time to object and gives you proper time to consider your answer.

8. RIGHT TO CONFER WITH YOUR LAWYER. You have the right to confer with your attorney privately regarding a question and any proposed answer. Use this right when in doubt of a question or answer.

9. BE POLITE, COURTEOUS AND RESPECTFUL. Do not be afraid, rather be courteous and respectful. Never argue with the lawyer-reserve that option for the lawyers. No jokes. Do not be fooled by the informal setting...A deposition is serious business and should be treated accordingly.

10. ANSWER QUESTIONS TRUTHFULLY, BUT CONCISELY. This commandment is a reaffirmation of #1, because it is so important. Your deposition is being taken to provide the other side information to be used against you. You should tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but answer truthfully, and concisely. Do not provide more information than the other attorney has asked. And...know you are entitled to consult with your attorney during the deposition should you have any questions.

Often times, the deposition will be anti-climactic. It is a time when the lawyers get to take a look at the opposing side's position. The above general rules are guidelines, not set in stone, because each case is unique. Your family law attorney is there to review your case with you prior to the deposition and support you during and after its conclusion.