What Is a Deposition in a Divorce?

What Is a Deposition in a Divorce?Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s long and drawn-out divorce has finally come to an end as of late November. Although Kardashian filed for divorce back in 2021, West’s refusal to cooperate had stalled negotiations until the couple reached a settlement through their respective attorneys. Now, it appears all matters regarding the divorce are settled and both can move on with their lives, and co-parent their four children.

Per entertainment and gossip site TMZ, West had refused to engage with the divorce process, going through several lawyers and even skipping scheduled depositions. The ex-couple reached the settlement on the eve of a rescheduled deposition, avoiding a likely costly and public divorce hearing.

What is a deposition, anyway?

Kanye West skipped his deposition with Kardashian’s attorneys, which is never recommended. Had their divorce case gone to court rather than settling immediately before, the judge may not look favorably on West and his unwillingness to cooperate. Depositions are important to the discovery process during a particularly complex or high-conflict divorce.

A deposition is a sworn statement given outside of the courtroom at your spouse’s attorney’s request. It is given under oath with attorneys and a court reporter present, and allows attorneys to collect information relevant to the case as part of the discovery process. Neither party is permitted to hold back any information during this process, and deposed parties are obligated to tell the truth.

Depositions are not necessary for every divorce case. Your Rockville divorce lawyer can advise you as to when you may need to call your spouse or other parties for a deposition.

When do lawyers need to take depositions?

Although every divorcing couple’s circumstances are unique, depositions are useful for your attorney to gather information that can help build the best strategy for a successful outcome for your case. Other reasons an attorney may want to depose witnesses for a divorce include to:

  • Establish accuracy of statements
  • Test how you, your spouse, or other witnesses will act under cross-examination
  • Assess whether someone will make a good witness
  • Lock in testimony to ensure a witness does not lie on the stand

Whether you are being asked to give a deposition, or if your attorney is calling your spouse for a deposition, the questions asked will depend on the facts surrounding your particular divorce.

What questions are asked in a divorce deposition?

Your Rockville divorce lawyer will prepare you in advance about what questions will likely be asked at your deposition. However, common questions typically include those about:

  • If your divorce involves issues like alimony, asset division, or child support, deposition questions will aim to uncover all sources of income to ensure both spouses are not attempting to conceal any funds.
  • Important dates or events. Depositions are also meant to address and uncover any new information that might be relevant to the case, including specific dates and events. This could be anything from a missed custody pickup to a verbal altercation. It is crucial to document these types of relevant incidents in order to maintain credibility with the court.
  • Physical and/or mental health. When things like child custody or finances are in dispute, any issues with health may come up during a deposition. Ensure you discuss these with your attorney so you are prepared to address them properly.
  • Potentially unsafe behaviors. In divorces involving child custody, your spouse’s lawyer will likely ask you questions about your personal life. These questions might include your hobbies, how you spend your free time, and whether you drink or do any recreational drugs. These questions may feel violating, but your lawyer can help prepare you. Your attorney also has the right to depose your spouse if necessary.
  • Custody and child care. If a divorce involves children and custody negotiations, a deposition may also question a spouse about how much time they have available to spend with their child. This can include questions about work schedules, daycare, babysitters, and how much one-on-one time spent with the children. This information can be used to design custody and visitation schedules.

Preparing for a divorce deposition

If you are deposed during the divorce process, your family law attorney will thoroughly prepare you for what is to come. Do not try to go through this alone – you could unknowingly both damage your credibility and your case by going in unprepared. The National Law Review (NLR) offers 10 helpful pieces of advice when participating in a divorce deposition that we will summarize here.

  1. Take a pause before answering. Concentrate on the question and give a thoughtful and concise answer. Then, per the NLR, “you will not inadvertently give away information that the opposing attorney never thought of asking for.”
  2. Do not “volunteer” any information. You do not need to be helpful and offer any information that was not asked for. Keep answers to questions short and to the point – “yes” or “no” and only what the opposing attorney asked for.
  3. Ensure you completely understand the question. If opposing counsel is being ambiguous, it is not your job to fill in the details or find out what they really mean. The NLR advises, “If something interferes with your ability to hear a question, insist that the full question be repeated to you so you have a full understanding of what is being asked. You have an absolute right to ask for clarification of a question at any time.”
  4. If you do not remember something, say so. Do not attempt to fill in the gaps of your memory if you are unsure about specific dates or events. Never guess – simply say “I don’t remember.”
  5. If you do not know the answer to a question, you should also say so. You are permitted to say “I don’t know. The NLR states, “Witnesses often feel that they should know the answer to a question, then conceal their lack of knowledge by guessing. The attorneys know that the memory of any witness will have limits.”
  6. Read everything. If you know you will be asked about certain parts of a document, read the entire document – not just those specific parts. Ensure you are familiar with it and have reviewed it thoroughly with your attorney.
  7. Silence is fine. Sometimes opposing counsel will remain silent after you answer a question in an attempt to intimidate you into providing more information or further explanation. Ignore these types of tactics and simply wait for the next question. See #2.
  8. Keep your answers consistent. You might be asked the same question multiple times, just framed differently. Per the NLR, “If your original answer was accurate, stick to it. The fact that the opposing attorney keeps coming back to the question does not mean that you are not answering properly.”
  9. Listen up for objections. In the unlikely occurrence your lawyer objects to certain questions, stop and wait for it to be resolved. Your attorney will then let you know whether you may answer the question – do not go ahead until then.
  10. Review the transcript. Post-deposition, you have the right to review the transcript of the testimony to ensure its accuracy.

If you have questions about a divorce deposition, or have been called for one and need representation, the family law attorneys at McCabe Russell, PA can help. We serve clients and families throughout Fulton, Bethesda, Rockville, and Columbia. To set up a consultation today, call our office, or fill out our contact form.