A divorce deposition is commonly used to compile evidence when child custody, property division, child support, and other facts about the dissolution of the marriage are at issue. Part of the discovery process, depositions enable attorneys from both sides of a divorce proceeding to question the case’s participants prior to the trial.
What Is a Deposition?
A deposition is a type of testimony used for fact-finding during a divorce’s discovery process. The parties that are deposed are asked questions about the divorce. Depositions are typically conducted outside the courtroom, but participants take an oath to tell the truth and their testimonies can be used as evidence during trial. A court reporter will record the proceeding and provide each attorney with a written transcript of the deposition.
Depositions may not be limited to the divorcing spouses. If a custody dispute exists, expert witnesses or court-appointed experts, like a child psychologist or guardian ad litem might also be deposed. In a high-net-worth divorce with a complex financial situation, a forensic accountant might be deposed.
Why Is Preparation So Important?
Because any information gained during a deposition can be used during a trial, it is important to be prepared before entering the deposition process. Divorce lawyers help their clients prepare by asking them questions they expect to be included during the deposition. Questions about marital and individual assets, joint liabilities, facts about the marriage, parenting skills, and expectations for spousal maintenance or child support might be included.
Tips for Surviving a Deposition
Divorce depositions can be stressful. One spouse’s attorney may attempt to confuse or intimidate the other spouse with his or her line of questioning. Those who are deposed should not panic or rush when answering their questions.
Spouses who find themselves having to testify in a divorce deposition should:
- Take their time to listen to the questions and think carefully before answering. If the question is confusing, they should ask for clarification.
- Only answer the question that is asked. Spouses should not volunteer additional information.
- Resist the temptation to fill in awkward silences while waiting for the opposing attorney to respond after each question is answered.
- Stick to the facts and answer questions to the best of their knowledge.
- Be honest. If they do not know an answer or cannot remember the answer, spouses should say so.
What Are the Other Methods of Discovery in a Divorce?
Under Illinois law, each side of the divorce has a right to review the documents and hard evidence that the other spouse intends to use in court to help his or her case or hurt the other spouse’s case. During disclosure, both parties may request information from the other side. The spouse has up to 30 days to respond to the disclosure request.
Production of Documents Requests
This request is to obtain specific things like tax returns, bank statements, other financial documents or things like photographs and recordings. There are no limits on the number of requests for the production of documents. The requests should only be made if the material specifically benefits the individual’s divorce case.
This is a list of questions sent to the other spouse. Many states limit the number of questions with the Rules of Civil Procedure. The number is typically 40, but a spouse can request permission from the court for additional questions. Courts frequently grant the request.
Admissions of Facts
Request for admission are not made in every divorce case, but can be a highly effective tool. The admissions of facts is simply a list of facts directed at the other spouse. The person receiving the request must respond within a designated time period (often 30 days) by admitting or denying each of the facts presented.
Planning for an Illinois Divorce
Planning for a divorce in Illinois involves hard work, but the more prepared a person is ahead of time, the better. While the process of ending a marriage can be emotionally burdening, it also comes with mounds of paperwork, settling of debts, division of assets, and dealing with life changes. With proper planning, however, things will move along more smoothly. Here are some basic things a person can do to plan for an Illinois divorce:
Part of getting divorced is deciding who gets what property. Since Illinois law requires financial disclosure and the fair division of property acquired during the marriage, a person should take an inventory of the property he or she owns individually or jointly with a spouse. He or she should keep track of family finances and gather all financial documents, including pay stubs, tax returns, bank statements, credit card statements, receipts, appraisals, and other bills.
A person will need documentation to show his or her income and his or her spouse’s income. This is important in determining spousal support and child support, should it be deemed necessary. Additionally, an individual should determine how divorce is going to affect his or her personal finances.
To prepare personal finances, an individual may consider applying for a credit card, opening an independent bank account, removing half the funds from a joint account, and putting an emergency fund in place.
If children are involved, it makes sense for spouses to prepare for custody determinations. Not all divorces involve custody battles, but it’s easy for one to be caught off guard. An individual should keep a schedule of who takes the children to school, play dates, extracurricular activities, and social events.
Updating Estate Plans
If a person wants to change the beneficiaries of his or her living will, he or she should do so before filing for divorce because the process can be halted until the divorce is finalized. Aside from the will, the ex-spouse could be entitled to the partner’s life insurance policy, 410k, IRA, or other plans if something were to happen to a divorcee. An individual must take time to effectively complete the required paperwork for each plan from which he or she intends to remove a spouse.
5 Questions You Should Ask Prior to a Divorce
Before deciding to go through the divorce process, there are some questions that individuals should ask themselves. Carefully considering the following could prove to be worthwhile, even if the marriage can’t be saved.
1. Is There Anything That Can Be Done to Save the Marriage?
While it may seem like there isn’t a feasible way to save a marriage, there may be options the couple hasn’t explored. Couples should identify the core conflicts in their relationship, so they can effectively communicate and evaluate possible solutions. Seeking help from a marriage counselor can sometimes determine if there’s anything left to try. Couples can also make lists of things each party can do that might make a difference.
2. Could the Divorce Cause Emotional Damage?
Unhappiness and frustration are common reasons couples consider a divorce. It’s important to consider how the aftermath of divorce will affect the emotional well-being of both parties, however. Leaving a spouse can be a traumatic experience. An assessment of each spouse’s emotional health and stability is crucial prior to going through the divorce process.
3. Are Divorce Lawyers Necessary?
One of the most important steps to take prior to filing for a divorce is to consult with a reputable divorce lawyer. The divorce process is often complicated, and a lawyer can help both parties understand how parenting time, the allocation of parental responsibilities, spousal support and other aspects of their divorce might impact their lives in the future.
4. Is Safety Guaranteed for the Family?
Following a divorce, the safety of everyone involved, including the couple’s children, is important. Individuals involved in toxic or abusive relationships should consider whether they wish to move out or stay in their current home.
Moving out may be safer in many instances, but it could impact rulings regarding parental responsibilities. Getting a restraining order or forcing the other spouse to leave may be as effective in some cases.
5. Is the Family Prepared for the Future?
Couples should consider the best interests of their children and take preventative actions to avoid or minimize potential harm that could result to the children while the divorce is pending, as well as after the divorce. Preparing the kids for an upcoming divorce can help ease the impact of the changes that will take place.
By considering these questions and discussing concerns with divorce lawyers, couples can avoid turmoil during and after a divorce.
Preparing to Talk to an Attorney
While it’s ideal to call a family law attorney when preparing for a divorce, there are other steps that individuals should take to make sure they make the right decisions.
Practice Clear Thinking
People are often overwhelmed with emotions throughout their lives. Going through a divorce is usually a stressful event that can leave both parties feeling exhausted, angry, depressed, and frustrated, but it’s important to remember that people don’t tend to make the best decisions when overly emotional. Emotionally unclear thinking can often result in higher costs, additional stress, and poor decision-making that draws out the divorce process. One of the best ways to avoid unclear thinking and make the right decision is to keep from signing any documents that the spouse may ask or tell them to sign, and avoid making any major decisions without the help of a family law attorney to help guide them.
Gather as Many Financial Records as Possible
The financial settlement and distribution of property is a crucial aspect of a divorce settlement, but individuals can avoid potential issues if they are armed with details about finances.
Obtain Copies of Prenuptial or Post-Nuptial Agreements
These agreements can ultimately determine the type of settlement a spouse may be entitled to, or they may contain other dictations regarding what occurs during the divorce process.
Bring All Signed Legal Documents
If an individual has already received divorce papers from his or her spouse, or signed legal separation papers, he or she will need to bring them to an attorney immediately. The attorney can then determine what the spouse has agreed to or what is being asked of them.
Determine Whether the Spouse Has Spoken with an Attorney
The divorce process is often easier when both parties negotiate through family law attorneys. Following all of these steps, people seeking a divorce should be prepared to consult with an attorney to learn more about what to do before filing a claim.