If you have been told by your attorney that you will be expected to give a deposition in your divorce or child custody case, you are likely going to have questions. For many of us, that question may be: what is a deposition? After you find out what a deposition is, the next question that you may want to know is what sort of questions you will be asked in your deposition.
We discussed yesterday what a deposition is- an opportunity for your spouse’s attorney to ask you questions that will provide him or her with information relevant to your case. You both can depose the other. Other witnesses may be deposed as well. As far as the questions that you will be asked those are often a product of the type of case you are involved in.
Are you going through a divorce? If so, then you are likely going to have questions having to do with financial issues since the property is divided in a divorce. Are you going through either a child custody case or do you have children in your divorce? If so, parenting issues, past problems associated with substance abuse and even family violence may arise. The time period in your family law case before a trial is spent collecting information that can be used as evidence in your trial. Depositions are just a part of that discovery process.
Listing the questions that you will likely be asked in your deposition
Being called in to testify in a deposition can be nerve-wracking. The testimony that you will provide is under oath. There will be a court reporter present to administer an oath upon you. Secondly, you will be in an unfamiliar environment- likely your spouse’s or opposing party’s attorney’s office. Feeling out of your element and unprepared is a bad combination when it comes to answering questions and doing well in your deposition.
Let’s go over some of the questions that you will be expected to answer in a typical family law deposition. As I mentioned a moment ago, these questions could vary depending upon the specific nature of your family law case. Additionally, the personality and questioning style of the attorney sitting on the opposite side of the table from you will influence the type of questions you are asked as well.
Basic questions will be asked of you at the very beginning of the deposition. Your full name, your address, how long you have lived at that address as well as your employer's name. These questions are meant to not only establish what are thought to be simple facts about you but also to get you in the right frame of mind for answering more in-depth and detailed questions.
One piece of advice that I give to clients (after telling him or her that they need to be honest in their answers above anything else) is that you should take note of the pacing of the questions from the other lawyer. Lawyers love to lull deponents into a false sense of easy-going questions. Your answers will start to come free and easy and that can be a bad thing for you. You want to take a moment to consider the question being asked of you before providing an answer. Take your time and do not answer questions according to the pace that the attorney wants them answered. Answer only after you listen to the question, understand what it is asking you and know that you have a complete answer to provide.
Many attorneys will ask you about your health. What conditions do you have presented that you are receiving medication for? How long have you been taking that medication? What doctors are treating you currently? Do you have a primary care doctor? Are the doctors treating you for any chronic conditions? When was the last time that you underwent a physical examination?
These may seem like unnecessary and invasive questions, and to some extent, you may be right about that. However, if you consider that this family law case has an impact not only on your short term but long term future (as well as that of your children) it is essential that you and your opposing party know the details of your respective health situations.
You may also be asked questions about where you are currently living. If you were the spouse who has had to move out of the family home, you will need to provide the address of your current residence as well as information about whether you own the home or are renting. Do you have plans to move in the near future or are you stable in where you are living? The number of bedrooms in your home, the neighborhood it is in and the schools that your home is zoned to are likely relevant questions to ask.
Last, among areas of questioning that you are likely to encounter regarding yourself are those that relate to your employment. Spousal support, child support, and overall family stability are all related to where you work. What is your current job title? How long have you worked there for? What are your responsibilities at work? A short job history will likely be sought so it can be determined if you have shown a propensity to job hop. Do you have plans to leave your current employer or are you happy with your situation? How much do you earn and what is your work schedule?
Deposition questions that relate to your children
Not all of the questions that you will be asked in a deposition have to do with you. Many of the other questions that you will be asked relate to your children and your relationship with them.
For instance, you will be asked the name and ages of all of your kids. Importantly you will also be asked what role you are seeking in regard to conservatorship. Are you asking to become the primary conservator of your children? If so, why? What are you doing to prepare yourself to take on this responsibility and how if your life conducive to doing so?
Specific questions are likely to be asked to you about your children’s education if they are enrolled in school. Your child’s grade level, teacher’s names, the principal’s name and their performance to date in school are likely questions that you will be facing. Do you interact with your child’s teachers? Do you send emails and schedule appointments for updates on your child’s performance in the classroom? Does your child have behavioral issues that you have discussed with his teachers? What has your child’s attendance been like in school?
Also critically important in a family law case is the health of your kids. As such, you can expect that you will be asked questions about your child’s doctors, medical conditions and frequency of medical care received by any of your kids. Do you take your kids to the doctor or does the other parent? Does your kid’s doctor know who you are? Who gets the prescriptions filled from your local pharmacy?
Domestic type questions are also commonly asked in depositions. If your child is young, who changes the diapers and buys new ones? Do you cook breakfast and/or dinner? Do you wake up early and get the kids ready for school or is that more often a task that your spouse does. What about getting the kids to bed- do you read to them before the lights go out? Homework is a topic that is often discussed in family law cases as well. Who disciplines your child?
Finally, do you attend extracurricular events both within the school and outside of a school environment? Do you and your spouse attend these events equally or is one of you there more often than the other? If you have not been able to attend these events on a regular basis you will probably ask a reason why this has been the case.
Other questions that you can expect to be asked in a family law deposition
Financial questions are fairly common in a deposition especially if you have a great amount of wealth or at least a great amount of wealth that is being disputed. If there are questions as to whether a piece of property is community or separate property you should expect to answer questions about how and when you purchased that property.
Finally, if you are making any allegations against your spouse those allegations will be explored along with your basis for making those allegations. Fraud, family violence, adultery and any other fault grounds for divorce are likely to be focuses of the questions asked of you in your deposition.
Remember to provide answers only to the questions that are being asked of you
It is not necessary for you to give the wordiest, verbose answers to the questions asked of you that you can come up with. Part of the fine line that you have to dance in a deposition involves the need for you to answer questions fully and with honesty, but to avoid providing more information that the questioner is entitled to. You only have to answer the specific question being asked. Additional information that is not called for in the question you are being asked does not have to be provided by you.
Your job is not to give out information for free without having been first asked about it. That does not mean that you are being dishonest and not forthcoming. Rather, you are simply being fair. If your spouse and their attorney want to discover information about you that they do not already know they can send in discovery requests or ask you for that information. You do not need to disclose that information on your own without being prompted to do so first.
Also, remember that if you are not asked about a particular subject that does not mean that you will not be asked about it in a trial. I have had clients that were disappointed that a particular subject was not discussed with their spouse in their deposition. However, keep in mind that it is the responsibility of your attorney to determine what the benefits are of raising the issue in your deposition and what the costs may be. It could be a better strategy to ask a question of a witness in a trial when that person is unprepared, rather than to ask in a deposition setting,
If you issue a general denial about a subject in a deposition it is possible that your spouse's attorney could come back to you in a trial and force you to answer a question a more specific question about your past actions. This may cause you to look like you are being less than truthful because you are issuing a denial in a deposition while not doing so in a trial. There is not much you can do about this, but I mention it only because it is a strategy that your and/or your spouse's attorney may choose to implement.
Interested in learning more hints regarding depositions? Return to our blog tomorrow
Depositions are an important part of family law cases but are not often discussed. For that reason, we will continue to provide information about this topic in tomorrow's blog post.
In the meantime, if you have any questions about the subject matter that we went over today, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week where we can answer your questions and address any concerns that you may have.
We pride ourselves on serving people just like you who live and work in our community. There is no family law office in the Houston area that has more attorneys in more courts in southeast Texas at any one time than the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. We work hard to earn superior results for our clients and to assist our neighbors with their family law issues.