By: Leslie Barrows
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How to Prepare to Give Your Deposition
General Instructions on Deposition Preparation in Divorce and Family Law Cases
Being put on the spot is one thing, being deposed is another, but you do not need to worry if you know how to prepare to give your deposition in a divorce or family law case. Depositions are like what you see on television or movies when someone testifies in court. A deposition, however, does not take place at trial, rather it is part of the pre-trial discovery process. The opposing attorney will send a notice with the time and place you will be deposed to offer your testimony response to their questions. Documents may also be requested to bring along to the deposition. When you are prepared, tell the truth, stay calm and are polite, there is no reason to lose sleep.
Remember that any questions, issues or challenges arising in your deposition can later be addressed at trial so while it is important to be accurate and truthful, there is an opportunity to correct problems.
General Deposition Preparation
- You do not need to bring anything with you to the deposition room unless I previously reviewed or approved it, such as personal notes. However, the examiner taking the deposition may use their own notes or documents to refresh your recollection. If a document is presented to you, make sure to read it very carefully and take your time to make sure you understand what it is and what it says.
- The examiner is not your friend and you have no duty to convince them of anything, but you do have a duty to answer their question. Be polite and answer shortly and succinctly. Do not keep talking and offer answers to questions not asked. Do not assume you know where they are going with their line of questioning and cut them off at the pass. The examiner might say they are confused, but that is not your concern, you only need to answer their question.
- Do not let the examiner put words in your mouth; listen to their question carefully and do not assume that the examiner’s summary of facts is correct. If you have no personal knowledge of the summary they suggest then say you have no personal knowledge and stop talking.
- If you are concerned about particularly sensitive questions and answers, please talk with me, your attorney, before the deposition.
- Private conferences with me, your attorney, should be limited to breaks unless the under the exception where you don’t know if a question violates a privilege such as the attorney-client privilege. Also, if you cannot answer a question truthfully, accurately or succinctly, you may ask for a side conference with me. Note the generally private attorney and client conferences are limited to breaks. If you need to change your answer to one of the questions, talk to me about it during a break and do not say anything otherwise. After the deposition is completed and we receive a transcript, there is an opportunity to correct small and technical changes.
- Do not promise to help the examiner with anything other than answering questions. There is no need to agree to look something up at the break, produce any documents or get back to them later. Simply answer their questions truthfully and succinctly.
- Remember not to get angry, emotional or become rattled. The examiner is not your soon to be former spouse, just his or her attorney. Do not address the opposing party, do not tell the opposing counsel what you feel about the opposing party and absolutely do not call anyone names or use abusive language. Please keep calm and smile when the deposition is being video-recorded.
Answering Deposition Questions
- Speak clearly so the court reporter can take an accurate transcript of the deposition. Make sure you tell the truth and remember that perjury is a 3rd Degree felony in Texas. Making untrue statements, on even minor details, can be used against you at trial to destroy your credibility.
- When the examiner asks you a question, listen carefully and then pause. The questions may not be as simple as they seem. Ask the examiner for clarification if you do not understand their question. When you pause, you are giving me, your attorney, time to make an objection to the question, such as an objection to the form. Also, the transcript will not contain your pauses so do not worry about taking all the time you need.
- Only answer exactly what is asked and do not offer any other information or story about your answer. If the examiner has follow-up questions they will ask them, and you may answer those accurately and succinctly.
- Do not use qualifying language or speculate in your answer. Do not add the terms “To the best of my recollection,” or “I believe it was/is…” If you are certain of a fact, simply say answer the question. Not speculating means simply answering a question with a simple “Yes” or “No” and if you do not know the answer, simply say “I don’t know,” and stop. However, if the question is a date or time question, only answer if you specifically know. It is okay to say “I believe it was on or about…”
- Reminder: Only answer the question asked by the examiner and do not try to assume the next question. Keep your answers short. “Yes” and “No” are good short answers. That said, do not be misleading; if a short answer would be misleading, explain the answer briefly.
- Remember: The examiner may be trying to rattle you, make you look unintelligent or foolish. Do not fall into their trap and say or do anything other than answer short truthful answers. Letting yourself be trapped by slick deposition tricks will not help you later at trial.
About Attorney Objections
- As your attorney, I may make an objection on the record to any of the questions asked by the examiner. Objections to the form of a question, for example, are handled on a later date and not at the deposition.
- If I say, “OBJECT,” you should stop talking and not speak again until directed. Listen to my objections because they may give hints as to what or how to answer. We can talk about this before your deposition and practice a little on how to handle objections.
- If I say, “Don’t answer,” then DO NOT ANSWER.
- Often objections are place markers are usually limited. You may still need to answer the question but please remember #14 above. If I say, “Don’t answer,” then DO NOT ANSWER.
Most attorneys here in the Southlake area and Tarrant and Denton Counties are civil with one another and understand that they will see and work beside other opposing counsels again in other cases. Luckily most depositions are smooth and painless, but you must be prepared and appropriate regardless.
Southlake divorce and family attorney, Leslie Barrows, is experienced and skilled in pre-trial divorce litigation and the discovery process, including taking and defending depositions. Call Leslie at The Barrows Firm in Southlake by dialing (817) 481-1583, or contact us through the website with any of your questions about how to prepare to give your deposition in your divorce or family law case.