There are ways to prepare for divorce court when your divorce goes to litigation. Although you may have wanted mediation or a collaborative divorce, your spouse may be unwilling to go that route. Or one may be ordered to undergo a deposition, as I had to do a few years post-divorce.
Being on the witness stand can be a scary experience unless one has some guidance. There are organizations that provide a “court buddy” to attend your hearing to give you moral support.
Top Tips to Follow if You’re Heading to Divorce Court
1. Communicate with your lawyer regarding what to expect
Clarify what topics might be addressed by the other side prior to divorce court. Will the opposing team be focusing on finances? If so, have facts at your fingertips. Attorneys I know do not go over specific questions which may be asked. Their clients run the risk of sounding rehearsed. It is better to be natural than seem to be retelling a story. If the questions one practiced answering with their attorney are worded in a different way, that individual can get thrown off track. Ask what territory might be covered on the witness stand so you have an idea and are less likely to have a nasty surprise.
2. Before answering each question – pause
If you jump right in with a reply, this can mess it up when your attorney is going to object to a specific question. An objection goes on the record and a judge may not require you to reply to what was asked. A pause allows one to collect their thoughts and get grounded.
3. Answer honestly as you are under oath
If you are not sure of an answer, do not guess. It is okay to state that you cannot remember. This goes for collaborative divorce as well. I was asked in a collaborative session about a certain financial figure. I started to guess and my attorney cut me off and changed the topic. If what you are asked is ambiguous, have the attorney clarify the question.
4. Answer questions briefly and to the point
My lawyer emphasized it is not my job to give the other side extra information to build up a case. Do not explain your viewpoint. Reply in as few words as possible. Sometimes questions are a fishing expedition. The opposition is hoping for new information to surface so they can use it to plan another line of attack.
5. When you are finished with your answer, keep quiet
A trick used by the other side is to wait – hoping you will fill in the silence with more content. Even if they stare at you for five minutes, keep your mouth shut. Do not elaborate on what you just said, because you are uncomfortable with this gap between questions. I sat with my hands folded on top of the table and remained completely still for as long as it took before the interrogation resumed. My ex-husband’s lawyer realized his ploy had failed.
Your spouse’s lawyer may ask the same question again in another way. This is an attempt to get you to contradict yourself or add additional information. This was done to me. I answered the reworded questions exactly the same way each time. After trying this several times unsuccessfully, the opposition stopped doing it.
6. Ways to reduce anxiety
Take deep breaths to oxygenate your body and help you relax. We tend to take shallow ones when stressed. Physical exercise, especially out in nature, lowers anxiety. I had a strenuous run before my deposition to release pent-up emotions and become calmer. Homeopathic remedies have helped many of us get through divorce and beyond. I consulted with several naturopathic healthcare providers for both long-term supplements to take and short-acting ones to get through a grueling hour or two. There are non-pharmaceutical remedies which help an individual sleep when stressed out over divorce.
It helps to put your situation into perspective. My collaborative divorce and a few times in divorce court afterward only amounted to 3% of my probable lifespan. Gather supportive people around you to help get through whatever life throws at you.