For some people, the idea of being deposed is almost as much the stuff of nightmares as being cross-examined in court, especially when the stakes are high. In contentious divorce proceedings, however, depositions are sometimes (but not always) necessary. In addition to knowing how to defend yourself at a deposition, you may need to mount an effective offense.
Party Depositions vs. Witness Depositions
Normally, there are only two parties to a divorce case: the two divorcing spouses. To depose your spouse, your lawyer normally notifies your spouse’s lawyer. Your spouse must follow the same procedure to notify you of a deposition. To depose a third-party witness, a deposition subpoena must be issued by a judge and you must convince the judge to issue it. You can also request that any party produce certain documents.
What Are Divorce Depositions Like?
At a divorce deposition, your lawyer asks questions under oath to your spouse or to a witness; your spouse’s lawyer asks questions under oath to you or to a witness; or both. Although you can skip the deposition if you are not being asked any questions, it is a good idea to accompany your lawyer to the deposition in any case.
The deposition will likely take place in a private law office. A court reporter will swear in the people being questioned and will record all of the proceedings. In most cases, depositions are limited to seven hours of testimony. Since breaks will be taken during this time, the total elapsed time may be greater than seven hours.
How to Handle Yourself When Answering Questions at a Deposition
Observe the following practices during a deposition:
Relax, but don’t relax too much.
Always tell “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” because you can be charged with a felony if you don’t.
If you are unsure about a question, ask for clarification before you answer it.
Never guess at an answer. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so.
Do not answer any question that is not asked.
Do not interrupt your spouse during testimony or break into an argument.
Review the transcript after the deposition. You can ask for changes, but requesting significant changes might be used against you in court.
Preparation Is Key
Nothing is more important for a deposition than preparation. You will need access to all relevant documents at the time you begin preparing in earnest, and you will need to use them as exhibits to make your case at the deposition. If you are the one asking the questions, they must be prepared carefully. If you are the one answering them, you may need coaching from your lawyer to avoid accidentally contradicting yourself or making misleading statements.
Contact the Professionals
If you are involved in a divorce or if you anticipate such a scenario, you need legal representation, right away. Call CKB Vienna today, or contact us online to schedule a time for us to discuss your options and answer your questions. We serve clients in Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino County, Los Angeles County, Orange County, and Riverside County.