By Divorce.com staff
Updated Feb 15, 2023
If you have an upcoming divorce deposition, you might feel nervous. A deposition is a formal court process, and your divorce is a deeply personal event. There are a lot of emotions and tasks to navigate, and understanding what to expect can help to put your mind at ease.
Here’s what you need to know before your divorce deposition.
What Is a Divorce Deposition?
A divorce deposition is a process in which a lawyer will ask you questions about your divorce while you’re under oath. These questions are usually about your financial situation.
Depending on your case, you may be asked about allegations of abuse or cruelty within your divorce as well. A deposition is a lot like being on a witness stand, but there is no judge or audience present.
Depositions are usually given outside of a courtroom with a court reporter present. Even though you aren’t in court, you’re expected to behave like you’re in court. Every answer you give has to be true. If you lie, obfuscate, or give misleading answers during a deposition, you can be prosecuted.
How Are Divorce Depositions Used?
Divorce depositions are conducted at the beginning of the divorce process. The statements you make during a deposition are recorded by the court reporter and submitted to the court as evidence.
Everything you say during your deposition is assumed to be true and will be used as a part of the divorce process. If the attorney asking the questions encounters evidence that suggests that you didn’t tell the truth during your deposition, your dishonesty will come with consequences.
Do You Always Need To Give a Divorce Deposition?
You only need to give a divorce deposition if you’re going through the process of a contested divorce in court. If you and your spouse agree to the terms of an uncontested divorce, no one needs to hire an attorney, and no one needs to be asked questions by a lawyer.
If your divorce is filed as an uncontested divorce, you’ll only be required to verify that you agree to the terms of your divorce settlement in front of a judge. It’s a quick, low-pressure process that often leads to a divorce decree.
How To Prepare for a Divorce Deposition
Many people feel nervous before a deposition, and a divorce can be nerve-racking enough on its own. Don’t panic. As long as you understand what you’re getting yourself into and you’re prepared to tell the truth, there’s nothing to be worried about.
Your divorce lawyer should work with you during the preparation process to be sure you feel confident before your deposition date.
Think About What They’ll Ask You
You’ll probably walk into a deposition with a good idea of what the lawyer is going to ask you. If any serious allegations have been made during your divorce, it’s safe to assume you’ll be questioned about those allegations. If you’re dealing with a complicated situation regarding property or money, you know you’ll deal with questions relating to that situation.
Speak about these matters with your lawyer beforehand. Your lawyer will tell you what you need to disclose and what you don’t need to disclose. Your lawyer may also be able to help you figure out how to answer important questions honestly and concisely.
Treat Your Deposition Like a Court Appearance
Although your deposition won’t take place in court, you should still dress and act the exact same way that you would if you were appearing in court. Your deposition is a chance to make a good first impression with your spouse’s attorney, and you want them to know that you take the situation seriously.
Many people choose to wear business casual clothes to a deposition. Just don’t show up in a work uniform or in leisure clothes.
Plan To Tell the Truth
It’s never worth attempting to lie, hide, or dance around the truth in a deposition. The attorney asking you questions is prepared to verify your answers. If your answers are misleading or inaccurate, the attorney will come to find out. This can create significant consequences for you.
Speak to your attorney before your deposition about how you should answer certain questions to avoid being misinterpreted.
If a lawyer asks you a question and you’re not completely positive that you know the answer, you should say that you don’t know or you don’t recall. A lot of people don’t remember things like exact dates or exact numbers off the top of their heads.
It’s better to be honest and say you don’t know than it is to accidentally provide incorrect information.
Take All the Time You Need To Answer
You can think before you speak at a deposition. Fully process each question as it’s asked to you. Consider what you’re going to say before you say it. This can help you avoid situations where you may volunteer too much information or accidentally give the wrong answer.
You also need to consider how what you’re saying will translate into the written word. Any nuances, subtleties, inflections, or attempts at being humorous will be completely lost in the transcript of your deposition. The transcript is what will be used as evidence.
Try to speak in the same voice that an expert would use to write a nonfiction book. Your tone and your choice of words are less likely to be misunderstood.
Ask for as Much Clarification as Possible
If you’re not sure you understand a question, ask for clarification. Go piece by piece to make sure you know exactly what a lawyer is asking. Lawyers will sometimes ask complicated or compound questions in an attempt to encourage someone to divulge more information than necessary. If the question feels too large or all-encompassing, break it down into parts.
In addition to asking for clarification, you’re also allowed to correct yourself. If you realize that you’ve misspoken about something or forgotten something, you’re allowed to return to the matter and correct the record.
It’s important to correct yourself if you realize you’ve accidentally given incorrect information. If you voluntarily correct yourself on the record, you haven’t presented false information at your deposition.
Only Answer What You’re Asked
“Yes” and “no” can be used as full sentences during a deposition. You don’t need to qualify your answers or provide more information than necessary. Short, concise responses leave little room for reinterpretation of your answers.
Many honest people will feel the need to explain their answers. You may consider providing additional information as a way of showing that you want to be cooperative or helpful. Don’t do that. Attorneys have a tendency to view people who give long explanations as people looking to hide or justify something. The situation can escalate, and it opens the door for further questions.
By being polite and keeping your answers as short as possible, you’re keeping the process simple and reducing the chances that you may be misunderstood. You should never volunteer information, especially since it’s your spouse’s attorney’s job to use that information against you.
Don’t Let the Opposing Lawyer Get Under Your Skin
The lawyer asking you questions is hoping to get as much information out of you as possible. You may feel like the lawyer’s intention is to insult or offend you. This is by design.
Lawyers often get more information out of people if they slightly provoke them. If someone feels offended or intimidated, they may divulge more information than necessary. It’s sometimes called “badgering a witness,” which is an objectionable tactic in certain proceedings.
Remember that their tactics aren’t personal. The lawyer asking you questions may feel abrasive, but they’re only doing their job. They’re not personally invested in the situation, and they likely don’t have any strong personal opinions about you.
If you have your lawyer present, your lawyer may intervene. If not, keep calm and don’t react emotionally. If the situation gets too intense, you can politely express that you would like a break.
Even if the lawyer doesn’t change their tactics, you’ll have a minute to collect yourself, and escalating feelings of tension will stop.
What Happens After a Divorce Deposition?
A divorce deposition occurs in the pre-trial stage of your divorce. This means the process hasn’t officially started yet. Both sides are still gathering their documents and organizing their requests.
The deposition transcripts will become important when an attorney places someone on the witness stand. They can use the transcripts to explain their case or argue against statements.
Preparation Is the Key to a Good Deposition
If you’re getting ready for a divorce deposition, don’t worry. While depositions are important — as they will be used as evidence during your contested divorce — all you really need to do is tell the truth and arrive prepared.
A lawyer can help you throughout the process advising you on what to disclose and how to honestly answer each question that may come up. Mindful preparation will also help you avoid being misinterpreted and consider the nuances of your answers with your upcoming court case in mind.
Although depositions can be an emotional event, knowledge is power. A little preparation can go a long way.