YOUR DEPOSITION IN FAMILY LAW CASES
In any family law case a deposition of you will most likely be taken. Therefore, to help put you at ease and at the same time inform you, we want you to read the following carefully so that you will have a clear understanding of what to expect. You will, of course, have an opportunity to discuss any of these matters with your attorney and to ask us specific questions about your case. This is merely a guide that applies generally to all cases.
WHAT IS A DEPOSITION?
A deposition is merely a series of questions which the opposing attorney will ask of you and the answers which you will give to him. You an attorney from this firm will probably go to the office of the other attorney or to the Court Reporter's office and answer this series of questions in front of a court reporter. You will be placed under oath by the court reporter and your attorney will be present throughout the entire procedure. This will not take place in a courtroom and neither a judge nor a jury will be present.
Whatever you say will be transcribed by the court reporter and filed in your case. We will receive a copy of the questions and answers and these will be available for your to read at a later date. The opposing attorney will also receive a copy of these questions and answers at the time of the trial. If anything is different, he will be able to confront you with your prior testimony.
The procedure is very informal, and although it is important, there is nothing about which you should be nervous. There is no way of telling how long the deposition will last since this depends on how complicated your case might be. Generally, however, it will last for at least one hour.
The opposing attorney is interested in finding out many things about you and the facts of your case. You should make a complete, honest and frank disclosure of anything you are asked, but do not volunteer any information you are not asked. Every question should be answered without any unnecessary explanations and as briefly as possible. Simple "Yes, Sir" and "No, ma'am" answers are preferred. When the opposing attorney has finished asking his questions your attorney has the opportunity to add anything we feel might need explaining. Leave it to our judgement as to what needs enlarging or explaining rather than trying to convince the opposing attorney that you know everything about your case. If the deposition goes along the usual course, your attorney will not ask you any questions at the end of the deposition. You should adopt the attitude during your testimony that you are telling the absolute truth and not feel that an explanation is needed in order for anyone to believe your testimony. Merely state a truthful answer and do not try to convince anyone as to why it may be a logical answer.
PERSONAL APPEARANCE AND CONDUCT:
One of the things that the opposing attorney will discover during the deposition concerns your personality and appearance. Your dress and appearance should be neat, clean and conservative in style. We want you to be extremely polite during the deposition and treat the other attorney with respect and courtesy, regardless of the opposing attorney's attitude or treatment. however, do not hesitate to disagree and remain firm in your version of things, even if the attorney on the other side is suggesting a different version to you or because he may repeat a question.
TYPES OF QUESTIONS:
Make absolutely sure that a question is completely finished before your give your answer. Take all of the time that is necessary to completely understand the questions before you give your answer. Don't ever be embarrassed to say that you do not understand a questions and/or a particular word in q question. Also be careful that you do not say "yes" or "no" to a double-barreled questions which may contain two different questions. Do not try to guess whether or not an answer will help or hurt your lawsuit. Tell the truth as best your can and leave it to others to judge the result.
PRIOR PERSONAL LIFE:
You may be asked if you have ever been convicted of a crime and about your personal life in general. None of us have lived a perfect life and if you have any skeletons in you close, please make sure you discuss it with us before the deposition. All criminal records and other sources are automatically investigated to double-check your testimony. Any other matters concerning prior divorces or personal problems should be discussed with your attorney because you will be required to give answers in this regard. Anything that you say to your attorney is absolutely confidential and privileged and we cannot and will not repeat it. We must know the full picture, however, so that we can adequately represent you.
You will be asked in great detail about different facets of your marriage. A general question might be asked of you, and in response to this, you should give an answer that is truthful but brief. Remember that you are under oath and every word you say will become part of the permanent file which can be used either for you or against you. Therefore, if you can tell your story in fewer words, there will be less trouble. Never forget that if you truly do not know the answer to a question, the only truthful answer is, "i don't know".
PSYCHOLOGIST AND PSYCHIATRIST:
You may be asked about mental health counselors. It is not necessary that you remember the date of every visit or the amount of every bill. Usually, the doctor tells the patient very little about the diagnosis and even less about what the future holds. Tell what you know of your own knowledge, but do not guess about opinions of your doctors. You will be asked what you condition is today and what your complaints are. Do not downplay or minimize this aspect of your case. Be honest.
In summary, the following are the rules which you should observe:
1. Tell the truth.
2. Do not lose your temper.
3. Do not be afraid of the lawyers.
4. Speak slowly and clearly.
5. If you do not understand the question, ask that it be explained.
6. Answer the question directly, giving concise answers to question, and STOP TALKING.
7. NEVER VOLUNTEER any information. Wait until the questions are asked, answer it and stop. If you can answer, "Yes, sir" or "No sir", do so, and STOP.
8. Stick to the facts and testify to only that which you personally know.
9. Do not exaggerate.
10. Testify only to "basic facts" and do not attempt to give opinions or estimates unless you have good reason for knowing such matters.
11. If you do not know, admit it. Some witnesses think they should have an answer for every question asked. You cannot know all of the facts and you do yourself a disservice if you attempt to testify to facts with which you are no acquainted. It is IMPERATIVE that you be HONEST and STRAIGHT-FORWARD in your testimony.
12. Do not try to memorize your testimony. Justice requires only that a witness tell his story to the best of his ability.
13. You must tell the truth on these depositions. You cannot change your testimony later.
14. It is not our purpose to give the opposing party any more information than we have to. This is no time to convince the other sided of the value of your case. We will do that at another time. Therefore, only answer the questions asked and answer them with as few words as possible.
15. Do not answer the question unless you have heard it and clearly understand it.
16. Do not guess or speculate, If there is something you do not know, admit that you do not know. it.
17. If you need a break to talk to your lawyer, or for any other reason, tell your lawyer and a break will be taken.
18. Many of the questions you will be asked will not be admissible at the trial but the opposition is entitled to an answer in order to help them prepare their case. Many cases are lost because the spouse/witness tried to hide something. Tell the whole truth on these depositions. Many of the questions cannot be used in the trial unless you have not told the truth, and then your false answers can be shown at the trial and could hurt your case.
19. If we object to a question, stoop talking and we will instruct you after we object to either answer the question or not answer it.
20. After the depositions are over, do not discuss anything in the presence of the opposing lawyers or the reporter. Anything you say may then reopen the deposition. If you want to discuss something after the deposition, wait until you and your lawyer are alone.
REMEMBER, perhaps the most important aspect of your lawsuit is YOU and the appearance you make. If you give the appearance of earnestness, fairness and honesty, and if in giving your discovery deposition you keep in mind the suggestions made herein, you will be taking a great stride toward successful and satisfactory completion of the litigation in which you are involved. What you do at the deposition can help you or hurt you depending on your attitude, truthfulness and appearance.
We hope this information will orient you briefly to the legal procedures of the deposition and thereby put you at ease as much as possible. Your attorney will personally review with you all of these and other matters of your particular case prior to the deposition date.
For more information or a free consultation on your legal issue contact The Law Offices of Charles D. Scott PLLC, your injury law and family law attorneys, at 727-300-4878. http://www.yourstpetelawyers.com