How to Handle Divorce Depositions
If your divorce action cannot be settled outside of the court room and a trial is pending, both parties will have to partake in a deposition. A deposition, or Examination before Trial (EBT), is a meeting that takes place outside of court, where each party will be questioned by the opposing counsel and give sworn testimony as it relates to their case. Common questions asked in an EBT can include inquires pertaining to a custody issue to help determine which party would provide a better living environment for children, questions involving financial issues or property ownership, etc. If you have never participated in a deposition before, the notion of having to do so for the first time (especially with such sensitive issues like divorce and custody or support), can be overwhelming, but with these tips from Brian D. Perskin & Associate, P.C., you can rest assured that you will be prepared.
Meet with Your Attorney.
You should always speak to your attorney before any major step in your divorce or child custody case, especially when a deposition is on the horizon. Since your responses will most likely be used in official court documents like motions, or as evidence in trial, it is imperative that you are further briefed on the status of your case. While your lawyer should keep you abreast of the situation regardless of whether or not you are scheduled to be deposed, it becomes especially more important the closer you get to the EBT date.
Your lawyer will prepare a list of questions they want to ask your spouse during a deposition, and you have the right to review these questions before the EBT date. In doing so, you will be able to bring up points you think are important enough to be addressed, as well as get clarification on why, or why not, your attorney is asking certain questions.
Review Financial Documents and Discovery Responses.
Prior to the deposition, each party will be required to file a Statement of Net Worth (SNW) and responses to discovery demands with the court. Your attorney will have a copy of the opposing parties’ SNW, as well as their discovery responses and Interrogatories. It is crucial that you review these documents and look for any discrepancies. Make a note of whether or not your former spouse’s Statement of Net Worth portrays the same expenses that they had during your marriage. If you find any discrepancies, you need to inform your attorney as soon as possible, as this could be an indication that the other side is hiding assets. If this is the case, any hidden assets will greatly impact your divorce action.
Additionally, make sure you are up-to-date with all of your document production, and that your SNW is accurate. Prior to your EBT date, review your own documents just to make sure that the information is fresh in your mind. You don’t need to worry about memorizing answers regarding financial information or properties, as this is information you probably already know. For instance, you wouldn’t need to look at records to figure out when you purchased or sold your home or other asset.
Practice Your Listening Skills
To successfully and accurately answer questions during your deposition, you must listen clearly to the whole question being asked. Its human nature to start formulating an answer before an inquiry is fully made, which means the whole question isn’t listened to. Rather, it is merely heard. By not listening to, and absorbing, a question in its entirety, you run the risk of answering the question incorrectly, or providing too much information. Which brings us to our next point…
Keeps Answers Brief
Sometimes, an answer is sufficient when it is short and to the point. Believe it or not, “yes” or “no” answers are completely acceptable during depositions. In fact, they’re often expected! The opposing counsel will probably ask you simple questions like, “Do you have a checking account with Chase bank?” Instead of answering “Yes, and it has a current balance of $_______”, just say “Yes”. By disclosing too much information, you may end up harming yourself. Other questions like, “Do you have children?” seems harmless, but the question isn’t specific enough to warrant more than a one word answer. You may very well have a child with your spouse as a result of your marriage, but you might also have another child from a previous relationship. Any support, custody or visitation agreement you have with your other child’s father is not relevant to your current matrimonial action, therefore, you should not mention it in your deposition.
This should be obvious, but do not lie during your deposition. You will be under oath, and there will be a transcript made of the questioning. If you lie, you will get caught. Your character may come into question, and there is a good chance the judge will find out about your lack of honesty. Experienced attorneys can tell when someone is fibbing during questioning, so it is best if you do not try to pull a fast one.
Keep Calm and Depose On
If there is one piece of information you take from this article, just one little bit of advice you remember come your EBT date, it is that you should remain cool, calm and collected before, and during, your deposition. By not letting your nerves or anxieties get the best of you, you will be able to focus clearly on the situation at hand, listen to opposing counsel’s questions fully, and answer carefully and honestly. A deposition is not as scary as you may think, so don’t fear it!
Divorces and family court proceedings are delicate matters that benefit tremendously from the experience that only a seasoned matrimonial law attorney can bring to the table. Whether you are facing a contested divorce with extensive property and assets to be divided, or you’re trying to retain custody of your children, or perhaps you just want to be able to relocate with your child after a divorce decree has been issued, you should call Brian D. Perskin & Associates, P.C. for a free consultation. With over 40 years of combined experience, our family law attorneys are well equipped to represent you throughout the duration of your sensitive legal matter.