During the time a divorce case is pending, many things are happening.
However, several of them are very important, and giving your deposition is one of them.
Therefore, it is very important that you and your lawyer take the necessary time in order to properly prepare for the deposition.
How to Prepare for a Deposition During Divorce
For starters, you should know what depositions are all about. Your deposition will take place in the law office of your spouse’s lawyer. Your spouse has a right to be present, and will probably attend. Your spouse will want to listen and suggest questions for his/her lawyer. A court reporter will take down your answers.
The attorney will ask you questions regarding all of the issues in the divorce. This will include financial issues and, if children are involved, parenting matters. Since grounds for divorce are no longer part of the law, there will be no questions on this topic. Your lawyer will be there also and will object to any improper questions.
There are two main purposes for taking your deposition.
First, the attorney wants to get information from you (what are your assets and debts; what’s your income; who has been the main caregiver for the children, etc.).
Special mention should be made as to issues relating to the marital home (do you want to keep it; can you afford to keep it); issues relating to your search for a job if you aren’t working (why aren’t you working; what have you done to find a job); issues relating to large or unusual expenditures (is this normal; did your spouse object); and issues relating to your monthly expenses (how did you figure them; what documents did you use to make the calculations).
Second, the lawyer wants to size you up – how do you act, how do you answer questions, are you believable. What you say at the deposition is generally what you will have to say at trial. You won’t be able to change your testimony without a good explanation as to why you are making the change. The attorney will read from the deposition testimony and will try to hold you to what you said before. Changing your testimony can be dangerous as the judge may start to not believe you anymore.
You should meet with your lawyer in order to prepare for the deposition. Generally, it’s a good idea to meet a week or so ahead of time so that you will have a chance to gather any necessary information. Your attorney should go over every possible issue with you, and point out the information you will need to answer. If there are weak spots in your case, your lawyer should work especially hard with you on this.
You may need more than one session with your lawyer. Also, you can practice at home. Good preparation should ensure that you will be ready for any question so that nothing comes as a surprise.
Your attorney should explain how the deposition works and what you might expect from the other lawyer.
Will he be easygoing or will he be aggressive. Is he soft-spoken and a gentleman, or is he a screamer. Your lawyer should also explain to you the proper technique for answering questions.
For example, take your time in answering; listen to the question and answer only what is asked; generally, short answers which don’t volunteer any extra information are best.
Your lawyer should discuss with you the fine points of how to answer questions. You must always tell the truth, but there are different ways to answer questions, and your lawyer should show you the best way. You are entitled to use words that put the best light on your case.
The other lawyer cannot make you use his words. Your lawyer should practice this with you so you know exactly which words are good for you and which are not.
Depositions can be stressful and it’s important that you do well. So, it is essential that you and your lawyer take the time to meet and prepare. There is no substitution for thorough preparation.
This is, without question, the key to a good performance at your deposition.
Jay A. Frank is a senior divorce practitioner with Aronberg Goldgehn in Chicago. He has been selected as one of the top family-law attorneys in Illinois. With more than 35 years of experience, he focuses his practice on all aspects of Illinois family law. He can be reached at (312) 828-9600. www.agdglaw.com