Divorce can get extremely messy, both legally and emotionally. When the facts surrounding the separation are controversial, the process can involve a deposition. While divorce depositions are uncommon, they have the potential to be extremely influential for your case. They frequently involve unwilling witnesses who were compelled to appear. As a result, it’s hard to be certain what they will say during questioning.
In order to ensure the deposition goes smoothly, it’s important to prepare for the following topics:
Health and Drug Abuse
Divorce depositions are a bit like the Wild West of the legal world. The cases are extremely personal and emotionally charged. Furthermore, the objective of the deposition is to unearth all the facts relevant to the separation. As long as the question is reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence, it is considered relevant. This creates a broad playing field for both attorneys.
Depositions have a way of revealing information that witnesses may be reluctant to disclose. Typically, they will involve some disclosure of health factors, as well as personal habits. To illustrate, if child custody is an issue, one partner may reveal that the other has a history of drug or alcohol abuse. On the other hand, if one partner was unfaithful, they may be questioned about their affair.
Unfortunately, not all witnesses are forthcoming and honest. For example, if your client has a drunk and disorderly conduct arrest on his record, he should be made aware that this fact will come up at the deposition. While you may not always have access to the truth, it is your job to make a good-faith attempt to prepare your client for the questions they will face.
Income and Assets
The separation of finances is a looming concern in every divorce. Uncovering all financial assets as well as outstanding debt is a difficult task. Furthermore, due to the low standards of relevance, witnesses may find themselves facing intrusive financial questions.
Many witnesses try to withhold information about investments, settlements, property, or other beneficial holdings. This forces attorneys to pursue very specific lines of questioning. Make sure to fully review all available financial documents when crafting questions for use during deposition. During the deposition, your witness is under oath, so you should take time to clarify any confusion and examine possible omissions.
Custody and Child Care
Lastly, always be prepared to tackle the subject of child care. Although custody will not be determined until the post-trial judgment is handed down, savvy lawyers are already looking ahead. You’ll want to ask questions that reveal how the child will be cared for, and by whom. For example, if one parent is often away in the morning before the kids go to school, arrangements would need to be made to safely shuttle them there.
When a couple separates, child care becomes exponentially harder. The situation is likely to require some compromise, especially on the part of the parent seeking primary custody. No parent wants to admit they are unfit or unable to assume custody. You may need to ask some leading questions to establish all the facts.