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How to Answer a Deposition

Many individuals in Northern Virginia contemplating a contested divorce have never participated in a deposition. Their experience is limited to what they have seen on television and their level of anxiety leading up to a deposition may vary depending upon the legal dramas in which they indulge. Seasoned attorneys recognize that depositions – and the stress associated with them – create client decision points; attorneys understand clients are reticent to participate in depositions and anticipate clients will take action to simply avoid an unpleasant experience.

While depositions may never be truly pleasant, they need not be traumatic. Below, I have compiled a list of common sense observations, which I hope will help you successfully navigate your next deposition.

1. Tell the Truth.

2. Understand each question before you answer it. If you do not understand the question, ask for clarification.

3. Think before you speak. Take all the time you need.

4. If you need to take a break, ask for one.

5. Answer only the question asked. Do not volunteer information. Do not assist opposing counsel. Resist the urge to explain or justify.

6. Do not guess or speculate. If you do not know the answer to a question, say: “I do not know.”

7. Do not answer “yes” or “no” to a question that does not have a “yes” or “no” answer. Say that the question cannot be answered “yes or no” and then give your best answer.

8. Do not argue with opposing counsel. Be polite. If you get angry, ask to take a break.

9. Answer in your own words. Do not allow opposing counsel to put words in your mouth.

a. If opposing counsel misquotes you, call the error to counsel’s attention.

b. If the question assumes an untrue fact (e.g. “When did you stop beating your wife?”), state your disagreement with the assumption.

c. Be careful in answering questions that begin: “Would it be fair to say that…” Instead of saying “yes” or “no,” rephrase the question fairly and answer in your own words.

10. No humor or sarcasm.

11. Base your answer on first-hand knowledge, unless the question requests information you learned from other sources.

12. If your answer to a question is not based on first-hand knowledge, state the source of your answer. Otherwise, people may assume that your answer was based on first-hand knowledge.

13. Be prepared to answer questions about the facts alleged or denied in any pleadings filed on your behalf.

14. Don’t bring any documents to the deposition unless your attorney asks you to do so.

15. Answer each question unless your attorney instructs you not to do so. If your attorney instructs you not to answer a question, do not answer the question.

16. Exercise your right to review and sign the deposition.

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About the Author

Jason Weis, Shoun, Bach, Walinsky & Curran, PC
4000 Legato Road, Suite 400
Fairfax, VA 22033

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