Deposition Do’s and Don’ts

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January 21, 2011

A deposition consists of testimony in response to an opposing attorney’s questions, given under oath and recorded by an official court reporter. Depositions are a discovery tool, intended to help clarify information not contained in documents. Your attorney will always be with you, and your spouse is likely to be there as well. You and your attorney will review topics likely to be covered at a deposition. Expect questions to be related to issues that may be raised at trial. For instance, if custody will be an issue, expect questions about the children: What grades do your children get in each of their classes? Why have your children visited the doctor? How often do you attend your child’s games or performances?

The opposing lawyer will attempt to get you to provide information that can be used against you in court. Pause between carefully considered answers, as you would between moves in a game of chess. Do not volunteer more information than the opposing lawyer asks for, even if there is an awkward silence. Only the written transcript of the deposition is used in court, so periods of silence will not be noted. Additionally, emotion or inflection will not be communicated, so humor or sarcasm will not translate well. Most importantly, always tell the truth, even if doing so may reflect poorly on you. Lying in a deposition often has serious consequences.

When you are questioned, listen to anything your attorney says. If your attorney objects to a question, he or she may be trying to tell you something. If you need a break during the deposition, ask for one. It is much better to take a break than it is to become distracted. If you have a question or comment during your spouse’s deposition, calmly hand a note to your attorney. There is no reason to get upset at the deposition should your spouse lie; doing so will damage his or her credibility.

If you tell the truth and answer only the questions asked, the deposition will be a useful tool that will help your attorney better present your case should it go to trial.