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By Jennifer Paine

Attorney, Cordell & Cordell

If your case is trial-bound, by now you should have heard of the term deposition. If you have not, then please call your attorney immediately and ask why not.

A deposition is a formal question-and-answer session akin to a cross-examination at trial. It is a time for your opponent to learn what information you have about the case. It is a time to test particular questions before trial. It is a time to determine how you will testify, what you will testify to, and how your wife’s attorney’s questions affect you.

For example, if the attorney asks, "Have you had an affair?" and you lurch across the table screaming, "Why does that matter?!?" you had better expect the attorney to ask that very question at trial, hoping to put your angry temper on display for judge and jury.

Depositions are important tools and for many reasons.

First, your deposition testimony enables the opposing attorney to find out your version of events.

Second, by taking your deposition, the opposing attorney may hope to catch you in errors or falsehoods, which can be shown at your trial to raise an inference that you are not a truthful person, thereby discrediting your testimony.

Third, your deposition testimony, under oath, can lead to settlement discussions if you are truthful in your answers and thereby show your wife, for example, that you really do not have that million dollar bank account in Switzerland or you really do want to spend time with your children because you love them, not just to reduce your support amount.

As a final example, your wife’s deposition testimony can help you narrow the issues or point you in the direction for additional research before trial.

Or, depositions can be your death knell. It may be, and usually is, tempting to lie. One little white lie over a loan to your brother a few years ago, for example, could barely be proven untrue. If only you and your brother know about it, and he’s not talking, so who’s the wiser? Probably no one. 

The problem is, the thrill of "getting away with" one lie will make you feel invincible.          Lying becomes easy, and before you know it you’ve told a grand lie that someone can prove. And once proven, that lie destroys your credibility and could send you to jail for perjury.

Think this will not happen to you? Think again. Parties, and judges, are crafty. A lie about something as simple as a Facebook username cost one client $5,000 in attorney fees payable to his wife’s attorney immediately.

The client denied the name was his. But when the judge searched Facebook from the courtroom during the hearing, his eyes grew wide with terror when the name corresponded to "someone" living in this man's city, with his birthdate, and using a profile picture of his truck.

Your judge has broad discretion to punish either party for hiding information. That includes the power to order you to pay attorney fees. That includes the power to prohibit you from presenting evidence at trial that would have been disclosed had you been truthful. That includes the power to jail you for perjury. And so forth.

Read my related article outlining 10 tips for you to consider as you prepare for the deposition.

 

Jennifer M. Paine is an Associate Attorney in the Detroit, Michigan office of Cordell & Cordell. She is licensed to practice in Michigan, and has been admitted pro hac vice in Illinois, Ohio, and the United States Court of Federal Claims.

Ms. Paine received her BA in English and Mathematics from Albion College and graduated Summa Cum Laude. She received her Juris Doctorate from MSU College of Law and graduated Summa Cum Laude.


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