DEPOSITIONS OR AN “EXAMINATION BEFORE TRIAL” IN NASSAU COUNTY DIVORCE:
Unless your case settles very quickly, there is a very good chance that the lawyer representing your spouse will schedule your deposition. A deposition is merely a session where you give a series of answers to questions asked by the opposing attorney. You and your lawyer will go to the court reporter’s office or some other mutually agreed-upon office to answer questions in front of a court reporter. You will be placed under oath by the court reporter. You can have your lawyer present throughout the entire procedure. This, unless unusual circumstances exist, will not take place in a courtroom and the Supreme Court Justice assigned to your case will not be present. The opposing attorney is interested in finding out many things about you and the facts of your case. Whatever you say and whatever the opposing attorney says will be transcribed by the court reporter and may be filed in your divorce case. If appropriate, opposing counsel will be able to confront you with your prior deposition testimony at any subsequent hearing or trial and the purpose of that confrontation is generally, to “impeach” your credibility at trial.
Helpful Hint #1: Don’t Worry!
When you find out that your deposition will be taken, the first thing that you do is start to worry about the entire process. The first rule of depositions is simple. The first rule is merely to calm down. Just because your deposition has been scheduled does not mean that you need to worry about going through one of those traumatizing scenes that you see on television. Your lawyer will be there to protect you from abuse by the attorney asking you the questions. So just calm down.
Helpful Hint #2: Answer ONLY the question asked.
Many people have great difficulty with this simple rule. Many of us just naturally begin forming an answer to a question as it is being asked by the spouse’s lawyer. Some people in divorces even concentrate so hard on formulating an answer that they don’t listen to the end of the question. Sometimes that causes the witness to give a wrong answer and it can hurt the case.
There is no requirement that you answer the questions quickly. Take your time. Listen to the full question asked before formulating an answer. Then take your time giving the answer.
If you start to speak an answer while the opposing lawyer is asking the question, it is clear that you are not following this rule. Provide a narrow response specific to the question asked. Do not volunteer extra information. If your spouse’s attorney wants you to explain or elaborate on your answer, that attorney will ask you to do so or ask further questions about your answer.
Helpful Hint #3: You May Not Know the Answer to Every Question, So You Are Permitted to Answer, “I don’t know”.
People involved in divorces are extremely stressed out. That is only natural. When it comes time to be subjected to questioning under oath by your spouse’s lawyer, the stress level rises even higher. That is when this hint comes in handy. You won’t understand when your lawyer first tells you that you will know the answer to every question until you realize that one legitimate answer is, “I don’t know.” If you are asked a question that you don’t know the answer to, don’t guess at the answer. If you are wrong in your guess, it will be used against you.Instead of trying to figure out what the right answer should be, your lawyer will want you to just say you don’t know and concentrate on the next question.
Helpful Hint #4: Make Sure You Understand the Question Before Answering It
Many people feel that they will be looked upon as unintelligent if they do not answer right away to every question posed at a deposition. That is not true. To the contrary, if you are asked a question that you are not clear about and you go ahead and answer it, your answer could hurt your case.
You are not required to answer a question that you do not understand. If you hear one of those questions, just say that you don’t understand it. For example: If the other lawyer asks you, “Was she there, also?” and you don’t know which “she” is the subject of the question, just say that you don’t understand the question.
Helpful Hint #5: Tell the Truth
This is the most basic rule to follow while undergoing questioning by the opposing attorney in your divorce. All lawyers with any experience at all have witnessed people giving false testimony at a deposition. Usually when that happens, it is pretty clear that the answer is not true. It is nearly impossible to keep from being found out when a false story is concocted. People have trouble keeping track of the details of the false story. If later at a trial, the Justice believes that someone has lied at a deposition or in live testimony at a trial, the Justice has the authority to rule against you and to generally make your life miserable. Once a Justice concludes that your credibility is questionable, you are in a bad position at trial.
If there is information that will be asked about which is adverse to you, tell your lawyer about it ahead of time and you will get assistance in bringing out the true explanation for whatever adverse facts there are and explaining the circumstances in a light most favorable to your case.
Helpful Hint #6: Prepare for the Deposition With Your Attorney
If your attorney does not schedule time prior to your deposition to prepare you for it, your attorney, in my opinion, is doing you a great disservice. There is an art in answering questions posed to you at a deposition. There is also an art in listening to the question asked and understanding the question asked. There are important insights to provide a client who is to be deposed concerning how to look at the opposing attorney. Body language is important. Volume of your speech and how you should generally comport yourself is important. Experienced attorneys know this. They know how to properly prepare and present their client for a deposition. Make sure your attorney plans on preparing you and then follows through.
Remember, if your spouse’s attorney asks you, “Mrs. Jones, do you know what color the sky is?”… the answer to that question is not “blue.” The answer to that question is “yes I do.” Then, the opposing attorney as a follow up question will ask, “Mrs. Jones, what color is the sky?”… and THEN, the proper answer is, “the sky is blue.” Remember this simple example. It may save you from divulging information that was not even asked of you.
The Pollack Law Firm, P.C., serving clients in Nassau and Suffolk County for more than 22 years, is always available to assist and represent parties in divorce, separation and all other matrimonial and family law matters. Please call today to schedule a free consultation: (516) 938-3330.
DISCLAIMER: This article is intended to provide only general information for entertainment purposes and should never be relied upon as legal advice. One should seek the assistance of experienced matrimonial counsel to assist in explaining the law, options and making important decisions in any divorce, matrimonial or any family law matter. By reading this article, no attorney/client relationship arises in any manner whatsoever.