Depositions do not have to be so scary.
During the pendency of your family law case, you might have to sit for a deposition. A deposition is a very useful legal tool during the discovery process of your case. At the deposition, you will be asked a series of questions under oath by your spouses’ lawyer. These questions and your answers will be typed up by a court reporter. You will be sworn in prior to your deposition and the answers you give are presumed to be true and correct. A deposition can be a scary procedure. Here are three tips to help you be a successful deponent.
1. LISTEN, THEN SPEAK.
It is very instinctual to want to predict the lawyers question and answer before he is finished asking it. I cannot tell you how many times I get interrupted during a deposition that I am conducting by the deponent who believes he or she knows the answer to the question I am asking. I think this reaction probably comes from being nervous, but also from the way we communicate. In regular course of conversation, we want to avoid silence and lulls in the conversation. It is very important that you realize your deposition is not a conversation. Your answers need to be first and foremost, truthful, but also well thought out. So, rule number one, is to listen to the entire question before speaking. It is completely acceptable to take a few seconds pause to gather your thoughts before answering the question. Also, if you listen before you speak, you will be able to better understand the exact question being asked. Finally, if you listen before speaking, you will give your lawyer the opportunity to object to the question before you answer. I may wish to put an objection to the form of the question into the record prior to you answering the question. Additionally, some questions asked by your spouses lawyer can be emotionally charged. Some lawyers will ask you questions in hopes that you will get worked up and say something you would not usually say when you are emotional. if you take a pause and listen before you speak, you will hopefully avoid answering questions while you are emotionally charged.
2. DO NOT RAMBLE.
I cannot state this enough. Your deposition is not a conversation. It is a question and answer session. It is crucial that you listen to the question and then only answer the question being asked. You might feel as if you need to explain your answer in voluminous detail, but rest assured, if that is the case, your lawyer will make sure you get the opportunity to do so at the end of your deposition. Do not ramble. Do not go on and on about the back story surrounding your answer. If your spouses’ lawyer asks a question that has a “yes or no” answer, then you answer should simply be “yes” or “no”. It should not be “yes, but…”. I find that clients often share way to much detail when the question being asked did not call for detail. If you ramble, you may open the door to whole new issues that your spouses’ lawyer might not have even thought about.
3. DO NOT GUESS.
Depositions can be intimidating. You might feel like you must answer every questions, even if you do not know the answer. I’m here to tell you that you do not have to guess. In fact, never guess. The phrase “I do not know” is an acceptable answer if you in fact do not know. (Obviously, do not lie and answer the question if you know the answer). If you answer a question with a guess, your spouses’ lawyer will not know you are guessing. The lawyer will assume that your answer is true and correct. Your deposition can be used at your trial to impeach you if you somehow change your answer to a question months later. Your credibility will be put into question if that is the case. It is always better to say “I do not know” rather than try to guess at an answer.
If you follow these suggestions, your deposition will go a lot smoother.
If you have a deposition coming up or require legal assistance in other areas of Family Law you may always contact Damien McKinney of The McKinney Law Group to discuss your case further. He can be reached by phone at 813-428-3400 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.