Most people have never had their deposition taken or are even aware of what takes place during a deposition. Your deposition is very important to your case. It is part of what the law calls “discovery” which allows your spouse’s attorney the opportunity to ask you questions. As with most anything in life, being prepared for what you will encounter is half the battle.
The following are 10 points we give to our clients in preparation for their deposition:
1. Depositions are not conversations. Depositions are formal, legal proceedings. However, all those who are involved in any type of litigation have a natural urge to tell their story. Resist this urge. The time to tell your story will be at trial when a Judge is there to hear you. Opposing counsel is conducting this deposition to learn everything he can about your case. You are not there to make the other side understand your story. Be polite, but do not make small talk. If there is no question pending, do not say anything.
2. You cannot win your case at a deposition. Do not help opposing counsel understand your case. Give them as little information as possible while still telling the truth.
3. Think before you answer. Take your time. Make sure you understand the questions. Do not tell the attorney asking the questions what you think he or she wants to know. Just answer the question asked of you.
4. Keep your answer short. When you give lengthy answers, you are revealing more information – and giving opposing counsel ideas for more questions.
5. Never guess. You might be wrong. If you do not know the answer, say you do not know. If you do not understand the questions, say so. You may say, “What do you mean by that?”
6. Do not volunteer any information. If there is a silence, do not fill it in with talk.
7. Do not get angry. Becoming angry sometimes will make you reveal too much information and will send the message that you are ill-prepared to be a witness and cannot control yourself. The attorney for the other side will try to take advantage of that weakness at your deposition and at trial.
8. Make eye contact. Look at the attorney asking you questions. Stay calm.
9. Stop talking when your attorney objects. When I say, “I object,” stop talking. I may merely be making an objection to mark a place in the transcript where an important question and answer can be deleted by the Court. If this happens during the deposition after I have made the objection, I will permit you to answer the question.
On the other hand, some questions are completely improper and should never get an answer. In such a situation, I will tell you not to answer the questions. Follow my instructions. The other side may then obtain a court order to get an answer.
10. Do not disclose anything your attorney has told you. Everything I tell you is privileged and not subject to an involuntary disclosure to any third party, including opposing counsel. These instructions are privileged. What our paralegal and secretaries have said to you verbally or in writing is privileged. Never volunteer such information. If a question is calling for such information, I will object and instruct you not to answer.
If you follow these 10 rules, your deposition will go well and not be excessively long. Be sure you understand what is expected of you. We are here to help you and we would like to make a necessary legal process as manageable as possible.