UPDATED: Depositions are often useful tools in legal cases. These are sworn witness statements taken out of court, but still under oath. The courts then use the written transcripts of these statements in place of in-person testimony. It’s common to use depositions in all legal areas, including family law. During the process of ending a marriage, you may encounter the phrase “divorce deposition.”
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What Is a Divorce Deposition?
The phrase divorce deposition sounds much more ominous and menacing than it is in reality. True to the larger definition, it is a statement taken under oath and out of court, used in place of witness testimony.
Primarily employed during the discovery process, attorneys use this tool to obtain information from both parties. In most cases, court personnel, like an attorney or paralegal, conducts the formal interview.
When are They Done?
Divorce depositions usually take place in an attorney’s office while a court report documents the answers. As these interviews are conducted under oath, statements are sworn to be true. Lying, falsifying information, or using misleading language can compromise a case. Lying under oath can be prosecuted as a felony, which is subject to jail time and substantial fines if convicted. As always, it’s best to tell the truth and be honest.
When are They Used?
Attorneys often use divorce depositions in pre-trial discovery as a way to document each party’s sworn testimony. This process seeks to uncover information about income, assets, debts, the goals of the opposing party, and more.
Depositions create a permanent written record. These are admissible in court and can be used as evidence. This is particularly valuable when allegations of abuse or violence are present. Sworn testimony of allegations can be useful in uncovering the truth about accusations.
Ins and Outs of Divorce Depositions
Despite the name, dispositions aren’t limited to just the divorcing spouses. Attorneys often depose other people related to the case. Depending on the circumstances, this includes co-workers, childcare providers, family members, neighbors, and more. If a person may have information that pertains to the case, they may be called to answer questions under oath.
Not every case requires a deposition, but they commonly occur in custody cases and complex, contentious, and high-asset divorces. Anything that disclosed during a deposition can be used if a divorce agreement isn’t reached and the divorce goes to trial.
Because depositions are admissible during a trial, it’s crucial to answer questions consistently. Opposing counsel can use your sworn statement to cross-examine witnesses. During this time, your ex’s attorney will try to point out any inconsistencies and undermine witness credibility.
Depositions are a powerful tool in the discovery process and important pieces of building a case. They provide the opportunity to craft a statement and argument. Often they address allegations and circumstances that influence the outcome.
Court cases aren’t usually like what you see on television and in movies. Those involved often find it anticlimactic. Judges will review documents and listen to the attorneys’ arguments. Usually, however, the parties never get called to the stand. Because of this, depositions often become your “day in court.”
Depositions tend to cast a broad net for gathering information. As part of the discovery process, they’re able to address a wide range of topics. This provides you with the chance to tell your side of the story in full.
It also offers an opportunity for questions that might not be allowed in court.
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Tips for Divorce Depositions
Your legal team may use divorce depositions as part of your offensive strategy. On the other side, the opposition may request this as part of theirs. Either way, it’s important to prepare.
Your attorney will be able to help you prepare by outlining what to expect from the process.
1. Tell the Truth
Though this seems obvious, it bears repeating. Being truthful in your deposition has many benefits. You don’t risk perjuring yourself. It’s easy to maintain consistency in your answers. You won’t inadvertently undermine your credibility.
Lying in a deposition is never a good idea. It puts you at risk for fines and jail time, as well as potentially damaging your own case. Even if the truth isn’t ideal, it’s the best approach.
2. Understand the Questions
Make sure you understand the question before you answer. Depositions have a huge impact, so take the time to get things right.
If you don’t understand the question, or didn’t hear it all, get clarification. Ask the attorney to repeat, explain, or rephrase it so it makes sense to you.
3. Don’t Volunteer Information
Be honest, but don’t volunteer more information than necessary. This happens all the time. If asked a yes or no question, respond with a yes or a no. If a question requires additional detail or clarification, the attorney will ask for more.
Also, don’t explain your answers. Be polite and accurate but keep it short. Over explaining or talking too much often makes you come across as untrustworthy or dishonest. Again, if a question requires more, the attorney should ask.
4. Don’t Joke
There’s a time and a place for jokes and comedy. That time is not here, and that time is not now.
Sarcastic comments, funny voices, and other attempts at humor rarely translate well to written documents. The court reporter only records what words you say, not how you say them. Trying to be funny in person often comes across the wrong way on paper.
5. Listen to Your Attorney
Your attorney is there to guide you through this process. This includes divorce depositions. You’re paying them for a reason, because they’ve been through this before and have experience.
If you’re giving a lawyer money for their advice, listen to what they say. Odds are they’ve been through this multiple times. They’re aware of potential pitfalls in depositions and can guide you through difficult topics. Work with your representation to prepare and make this work in your favor.
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