Depositions can be very intimidating to parties. Depositions are an opportunity for opposing counsel to ask you tons of questions and record your every answer in hopes that they will learn new information that will make or break their case. Here are five tips for deposition success.
- Answer the question, and only the question. If the question is a yes/no question, then your answer should only be “yes” or “no.” If the question is open-ended, answer it as concisely as possible. A colleague likes to use this example—if opposing counsel asks you, “Do you know what time it is?” you should not answer “Yes, 4:45.” Instead, you should only answer, “Yes.”
- Don’t fill the silence. Opposing counsel may deliberately take a long pause in hopes that you will have the human instinct to fill the silence. Do not fill the silence.
- “That is all I remember as I sit here.” Opposing counsel is going to try to lock in your testimony. In other words, they may ask you to list every vacation you took during the marriage, and then ask, “Have you now told me every vacation you took during the marriage?” Instead of saying you listed every single thing, since your memory may not be perfect, answer something like, “That is all I remember as I sit here.”
- Take a break if you need one. If you are feeling stressed or exhausted, don’t be afraid to ask for a break. Opposing counsel won’t let you take a break before you’ve answered a question, but they should allow you to take a break once the question is answered.
- “I don’t remember.” Opposing counsel may try to trip you up with complicated factual questions. For example, “In what month, did you roll over your 401k?” If you can’t remember, you can say, “I don’t remember” or “I’m not certain.” It’s better to say that you don’t remember than to state an untrue answer that will be later used to impeach your credibility.
Research on marital satisfaction finds that couples who use “I” statements are generally happier in their relationships than couples who routinely use “you” statements. (For example, “I need to get out of the house during the weekend to decompress” vs. “You always abandon me with the kids and you take me for granted as a babysitter all weekend.”)
Marriage is not the only time to use “I” statements. Consider using them during your divorce for a smoother and more amicable negotiation. Here are some translations from inflammatory “you” statements into effective “I” statements.
“You don’t deserve to have the children all the time. You are undeserving and entitled.”
“I would really like to have time-sharing with the children every weekend because I want to continue to coach Tommy’s baseball practice, take Sally to her Saturday ballet practices, bring the children to church, and bring the children to my family events. My extended family doesn’t do much socially during the week, but we spend a lot of time together on weekends and I want our children to be part of that so they can have strong relationships with their cousins and grandparents.”
On Child Support
“You are useless with money and you are going to waste all the child support on booze and your boyfriend.”
“I feel concerned that there won’t be enough resources for the children after the divorce. I am hopeful that the child support money can be used for the children’s clothes, school supplies, food, and other necessities. How does that sound?”
“You are a philandering #&(@^& and you deserve to pay me every penny you’ve ever seen.”
“After this divorce is final, I will be responsible for my own rent, uninsured medicals, food, transportation, etc. I am going to need to be able to meet these needs with alimony, and I am hoping we can reach an alimony figure that is feasible for you and also allows me to maintain my independence without becoming bankrupt or a ward of the state.”