Your divorce has turned down a negative road, or maybe it’s just complicated. Either way, you’ve been told that you have to take part in a deposition. You’re not sure what a divorce deposition is, but you’re pretty sure that surviving it is not going to be fun. Like everything else in divorce, understanding what you’re facing will help you deal with it. The better educated you are, and the better prepared you are, the lower your anxiety level will be. While that doesn’t mean that your divorce deposition will be a walk in the park, it does mean that your deposition will likely go better if you’re well-informed and properly prepared.
What is a Deposition?
A divorce deposition is basically a question and answer meeting. It is typically conducted at an attorney’s office, usually with a court reporter taking notes. It will include your lawyer, your spouse’s lawyer, and more than likely, your spouse. You’ll be sworn in (under oath), and you will answer your spouse’s lawyer’s questions, everything will be written down, and your spouse will have to go through the same thing. The main reason for a deposition is for truth purposes – if either spouse would try to lie during trial, the deposition can be used to prove either party is lying, thus making either party look bad to the court. Depositions can be used to frustrate, intimidate or investigate each party – they’re typically not used for positive purposes.
While it can make you anxious or tense, you can only handle your response to the situation at hand – here are 4 tips to help you make it through a divorce deposition:
- Calm Down.
Whether you talk through everything with your lawyer, you meditate or pray, you take something for anxiety or you simply take some deep breaths, it is imperative that you are as calm as possible for answering questions. Remember – if your divorce has come to a deposition, your spouse’s lawyer is gunning for something. Don’t let them get under your skin. Also, this isn’t TV – it’s tempting to imagine an intense, dramatic scenario, but you won’t have someone screaming at you in front of a full court room.
- Listen Carefully.
This is not the time to argue your case or scream at your spouse. This is the time for you to remain quiet unless asked a question, and when you are asked a question, to listen very carefully to what is said and how it’s said – wording and tone – and make sure you listen to the entire question before responding. It’s easy to think you know what question is going to be asked beforehand – don’t take the chance of being wrong and giving the lawyer information they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. If the lawyer tries to rile you up, take a second before responding. If you don’t know the answer, don’t give one, or simply say “I don’t know”. Don’t make guesses or say things like, “I don’t remember” – your spouse’s lawyer will jump on that and make you sound incompetent.
- Stay Focused.
Depositions are often conducted much like interviews, with the lawyer asking questions you must answer. While you do need to respond to each question honestly, the key to handling yourself well throughout your deposition is to prevent yourself from providing more information than you must. Choose your words wisely – you don’t need to volunteer extra information if there’s silence or a pause – you just answer the question(s) asked. Try to uphold the formality of the deposition and do not let yourself get too comfortable. Remember, the lawyer interviewing you is trying to obtain information that can be used against you.
- Be Honest.
This may sound rudimentary, but if your tendency is to elaborate unnecessarily or to use hyperbole when answering questions, you can’t do that during a deposition. Every lawyer has had experience with an individual giving false testimony during a deposition – they know the signs to look for, they know the body language that happens when someone is lying – most people in the room can tell when an answer isn’t the truth. If you believe your spouse’s attorney will bring up information that is unfavorable to you, be sure to talk that through with your attorney beforehand – they can help you select the proper wording for an issue so that your point comes across clearly and solidly.