To say that it is a high-stakes legal undertaking would be an understatement. Typically, the couples who have the most assets (including shared businesses) find themselves in divorce court. We would like to share 7 effective ways to prepare for your divorce disposition, to help you understand what to expect and how to remain composed as you are deposed.
1. Protect Your Right to Attorney Client Privilege
The recommendations and legal advice by your divorce lawyer are confidential and protected by attorney/client privilege. The legal protection is one of the oldest pieces of jurisprudence, dating back to the years of the Roman Empire. Essentially, your lawyer cannot be forced to testify against you or to provide any information that would damage the case and legal results for a client.
However, not many people know that the client can waive that protection. Why would you want to? To be clear you would never want to waive it, but it is easy to do that with a simple sentence that begins with “On the advice of my lawyer…” which may waive the privilege. One of the top priorities of the opposing side, is to break that protection. The legal advice from your lawyer is confidential, until you offer to disclose it, so refrain from making those statements and sharing that information in court or a t a deposition.
2. Learn to Control Your Body Language and Facial Expressions
When your spouse or his or her lawyer are providing information and discussing the personal history of your financial relationship, they may say things that you know are very biased. It is hard to listen to half-facts at a deposition and not have a reaction when it is human nature to have the “that’s not right!” or “he’s not telling the truth” expression on your face.
Practicing a flat-effect or a neutral facial expression is important. Sometimes body language and facial expressions can be misinterpreted by the Judge in court (and to your disadvantage) or by opposing counsel during a deposition. Train yourself to accept that your spouse and his / her legal case is going to be biased. Listen carefully to the question. Make notes about inaccuracies (for your legal team) and avoid glaring across the aisle.
3. Provide All Information to Your Divorce Attorney
Some things about your marriage, or your business history, purchasing behaviors, assets and behavior may be unflattering to you. If it happened between you and your spouse, disclose it to your divorce lawyer, and let the attorney decide if it is relevant to your divorce proceedings.
Even a small detail overlooked can be an advantage to the opposing side. Your divorce lawyer cannot prepare for that approach from your spouse and his/her legal team if the information is not shared with your attorney. Remember, your divorce lawyer is on your side, and they will not judge or criticize you. Make sure you disclose every detail (even if you think it is not important) to your attorney, so that there are no ‘surprises’ in court.
4. Practice Your Presentation to Build Confidence for Questioning
Few things are as intimidating as sitting aside the bench of a judge and being questioned. Second to that is being questioned at a deposition during your divorce. Depending on the contention level of the divorce proceedings, it can feel more like an aggressive interrogation, rather than information gathering. And the opposing legal team has a strategy to try to get you to respond in a way that discredits you, and your divorce claims.
At Weisman Law Group in New York, we help our clients prepare for questioning. However, we also recommend that our clients practice questioning with a family member or friend. It will help you build confidence for the questions you will face at a deposition or in court, and help you stay calm and composed during the proceedings.
Practice your presentation style in front of a mirror as well. Some people adopt a negative or aggressive facial expression when they are stressed or feeling upset. Learn how to maintain your best poker face in court.
5. Focus Your Testimony on the Judge (Not the Opposing Attorney)
You are sitting aside the bench for questioning during a trial or in a conference room for your deposition; your estranged spouse is sitting in front of you, opposite you, with his or her lawyer. The intention of the opposing side is to rattle you, to get you to say something that will damage your case and divorce claim. And they can pull some pretty tough and personal punches and say things that are difficult to hear. Some of them true. Some of them conjecture from your spouse.
The whole time you are in court, your testimony but also your affect (body language, communication tone and style) are being observed by the judge, as he or she builds a character profile for you. Are you being honest? Are you the kind of person that is emotionally volatile? An outburst when you are on the bench is one of the best outcomes the other side can hope for. Because it implies that you may be hiding something, and it creates doubt about your testimony in the eyes of the Judge.
When you are giving your testimony, do not deliver it while making eye contact with your spouse. Your spouse does not have a direct impact on the decision of the Court. It is the Judge that you need to convince, so address your responses respectfully to the Judge in a calm manner.
Do not roll your eyes, or sigh or express your frustration when testimony is being provided by your spouse. Simply make notes about inaccuracies that you can review with your lawyer during proceedings.
6. Never Bring New Information or Notes to the Deposition
If you find new evidence like emails from your spouse, text messages, credit card statements and other information that supports your case, provide them to your lawyer at least two weeks before your court or deposition date.
You may experience some surprises in the testimony of your estranged spouse, but your divorce lawyer should never be caught off guard by testimony that was not reviewed with her. Some types of important evidence could be barred from divorce proceedings, if not described in pretrial statement, which is typically filed at least one week before your trial in court.
7. Treat All Participants and the Judge With Respect
It can get really personal in divorce court. Very personal. And the last thing you want to do is lose your temper toward your former spouse, their lawyer or the Judge presiding over your hearing. Remember to stay calm and treat everyone involved with respect and courtesy. It will reflect well at the hearing and can support positive results for your case.
With over forty years of combined divorce litigation and family law experience, Weisman Law Group, P.C. provides comprehensive legal support and strategies for our clients.
When you are facing a contested divorce or distribution of assets, get a legal team that will fight to advocate for your rights and stand with you to present your best case in court.
We understand what it takes to prepare you for your deposition in divorce court.
Contact our attorneys at Weisman Law Group for a free legal consultation.