When going through a divorce, you may be asked to testify at a deposition or hearing. The thought of being asked questions by your soon-to-be-ex or his/her attorney can be anxiety provoking, especially if you have never before testified under oath or even been inside a courtroom. If you find yourself faced with this task, here are a few tips to help you get through it:
- Listen carefully to the question being asked and answer ONLY that question. It may help to repeat the question back when giving your answer. For example, if the question is “At what bank is your checking account?” you should answer, “My checking account is at Bank of America.” This will make you think twice before giving your answer to make sure you are giving accurate information. However, do not provide any additional information other than what is asked – it may give the opposing attorney helpful information that he may not otherwise have had. For example, with the sample question above, do not offer further information about where you may have a savings account.
- Think about the question before answering. Make sure you understand the question being asked. If you do not understand, ask for clarification from the attorney or the Judge. Take as much time as you need to think through what you want to say so that you do not give misinformation.
- Answer the question honestly, but do not volunteer additional information. There may be times where you will be asked a question to which the answer will hurt your case. Even so, tell the truth. Remember you are testifying under oath and any lie can result in jail time for perjury. However, do not provide additional information to try to justify the answer. Answer succinctly, and your attorney can later give you an opportunity to explain yourself or provide additional details during direct examination.
- It’s OK if you don’t know the answer to a question. Simply say “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember.” Don’t let the attorney try to put words in your mouth or pressure you into giving an answer that you aren’t comfortable with. Making something up is worse than simply saying you don’t know.
- Don’t argue with your ex or his/her attorney. Be respectful. This tip may be the most difficult to follow through with. Obviously, a deposition and/or trial can be an antagonistic situation but try to keep your cool. Your attorney and/or the Judge will stop the opposing attorney if he/she is asking harassing, irrelevant questions. Remember that a deposition can come in as evidence and, if you are seen as argumentative, it will not go over well in front of the Judge and could affect the outcome of your case.