Deposition dos and don’ts

Depositions can be unnerving, but the truth is that you have significant control over the experience. You hold information your spouse wants and you can determine how and when it’s delivered. Exercise control, but keep these dos and don’ts in mind. Your nerves will thank you.

DO:

  • Insist that your lawyer meet with you and prepare for the deposition several weeks prior.
  • Privately show your lawyer anything you plan on taking with you to the deposition.
  • Remember, no matter how friendly, the lawyer taking your deposition is not your friend.
  • Be polite and as relaxed as possible, even if you’re seething inside.
  • Listen closely to the questions.
  • Take your time. Think about the questions and your answers before speaking.
  • Ask that questions be repeated, if necessary.
  • Tell the truth.
  • Control your facial expressions.
  • Answer questions succinctly without elaboration.
  • Answer a question then stop speaking.
  • Stop speaking if your lawyer makes an objection.
  • Complete your answer if the lawyer interrupts you.
  • Say, “I don’t know” or “I can’t remember,” if you don’t know the answer to a question.
  • Correct any errors or mistakes you make during your testimony.
  • Repeat the same answers to questions asked repeatedly, unless the previous answers were incorrect. If they were incorrect, correct the errors.
  • If you are asked to look at a document, read the entire document even if you think you’ve read it before.
  • Tell the lawyer taking your deposition that her summary of your testimony is incorrect, if it is incorrect.
  • Ask for a break if you need it.
  • Stay strong.
  • Request, read, correct and sign a copy of your deposition, within the time required.

DON’T:

  • Be rude or outwardly angry.
  • Try to rush the deposition.
  • Anticipate the questions.
  • Interrupt or improve questions.
  • Guess the answer to any question.
  • Argue with the lawyer. Instead, stand by your answer and keep repeating it, if necessary.
  • Volunteer information or educate the lawyer taking your deposition.
  • Retreat when threatened or intimidated by your spouse’s lawyer.
  • Speak if your lawyer makes an objection.
  • Take anything to the deposition unless your lawyer tells you to or approves it.
  • Concede answers so the lawyer will stop questioning you.
  • Use the deposition to put forth your case. Wait for trial or another appropriate time.
  • Waive your signature on the deposition.

Is collaborative divorce an option to consider?

Divorce throws life’s foundations into turmoil. Suddenly, high stakes issues exist in almost every arena: financial, legal and emotional. This creates a “perfect storm” that can cause the couple’s conflict to rage out of control. In this tempest, it becomes difficult to make the good decisions that are the heart of a carefully crafted settlement. People who are understandably uncomfortable with the stress and tension of divorce may rush into settlement just to reduce the conflict. Eventually, however, they may live to regret their hastily made decisions.

If you are like many people facing divorce, you hope to reach an amicable settlement and avoid a bitter and costly battle. Your divorce settlement, however, will impact your financial well-being and that of your children for many years to come. Therefore, you must achieve not just any settlement but one that truly meets your needs and those of your children. A new process called Collaborative Law may be just what you need. The solution offered by Collaborative Law is a multi-part program designed to help people build good decisions that will allow their lives to work well after divorce.

What is Collaborative Law? How Does it Work?
Collaborative Law is a way to achieve sound settlement of serious issues such as divorce. Because it focuses on a “win – win” approach rather than an “I win – you lose” approach, the Collaborative method is especially well suited to situations where ongoing relationships may be involved. For this reason, the method also is used to solve other problems, such as labor and business disputes.

The Collaborative method works via a series of private and confidential meetings in which the couple and their professional advisors discuss the concerns, gather information and develop options. Then, they negotiate an optimal arrangement that meets the needs of both parties. The resulting agreement becomes a legally binding contract that is approved by the court. For an average family, four to six meetings may be needed, although the total will depend on the number of issues the couple needs to address.

Who are the Collaborative Practice Advisors?
The Collaborative Practice Advisors who participate in the process include:

  1. A neutral financial consultant who reviews assets and income and helps develop viable financial options for both spouses
  2. A family relationship specialist who helps the couple manage the pain of their changing relationship and helps them maintain a focus on present and future goals
  3. Legal counsel for each spouse to advise them on all matters of law, from child custody and support to spousal maintenance to property distribution
  4. A child development specialist who helps children make healthy adjustments to the changes in their family

All of these professionals work together toward the same goal: to help the couple clarify each person’s goals, develop multiple options, and develop solutions that work well for all. The result is constructively managed change. If the couple needs to continue to work together (as parents to their children, for example), they will be able to do so with much less friction.

Other Aspects of Collaborative Law

  1. The collaborative process is voluntary and both spouses must agree to use the process
  2. All proceedings are confidential and take place outside of court
  3. Full disclosure of assets, obligations and incomes is required
  4. The focus is on forging a settlement that meets the future needs of both parties and the children, rather than assigning blame
  5. Both parties always retain the right to go to court if the process ends without agreement
  6. Attorneys and other professionals who work with the couple collaboratively may not later switch into litigation roles in the matter. If the case goes to court, parties may represent themselves or hire attorneys, however, the collaborative attorneys and other collaborative experts may not participate in the litigation.

Why Collaborative Law?
This multi-part approach was developed because divorce statistics proved again and again that legal agreements alone were difficult to achieve and often did not end the family conflict. People complained of settlements being reached hastily on the courthouse steps on the eve of trial. Judges experienced cases returning to court again and again. Particularly troubling were the on-going struggles over parenting conflicts. Many family law judges, attorneys and psychologists became convinced that there must be a better way to help families through divorce.

For More Information
Divorce is life-changing, but life can be good after divorce. For more information, visit the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP).

Guest Author Donna Beck Weaver is a Certified Specialist in Family Law, State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization with 30 years of experience. Ms. Weaver is the co-founder of the Los Angeles Collaborative Family Law Association (LACFLA), a Board member of the International Academy of Collaborative Practitioners (IACP) and a fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML). Ms. Weaver was named a Super-Lawyer of Southern California for the past two years and her practice is located in Santa Monica, California.

Ask your spouse to use divorce mediation

Divorce mediation is an attractive alternative to litigation and is fast becoming the preferred method for settling divorce issues.

If you want to mediate your divorce, but do not know if your spouse will agree, here are some of benefits of using mediation that may motivate your spouse to choose mediation as your dispute resolution choice.

1. Mediation is usually less expensive than litigation. If you negotiate issues like child custody, child and spousal support, and property division you can avoid significant court costs and legal fees.

2. Mediation is private. You can discuss personal business in the comfort of a private office with a mediator instead of a public courtroom with countless strangers.

3. You have control over the outcome of your case. You can collectively resolve all issues in your divorce, provided your state’s laws permit your choices. You don’t have to surrender control to a judge who, knowing very little about you, will make decisions about your future.

4. You can expedite the divorce. If you avoid lengthy discovery, motions, hearings and trials your case move forward rapidly and, ideally, be resolved quickly.

5. You can avoid the adversarial nature of litigation. You can work together and preserve a friendship that lasts long after your divorce is final.

6. You can establish custody and visitation and establish a mutually agreeable co-parenting agreement. You can discuss education, religion, and extra–curricular activities, and establish the framework for making future decisions about your child’s well being.

7. You can (and should) review all mediated agreements with your own lawyer before you become legally bound by them. After reaching a consensus and before committing to anything, you can meet with an experienced attorney to provide feedback and if necessary, alternative solutions before you ink a deal. You also can consult with an attorney regularly during the process to prepare for each session and respond to your spouse’s positions and mediator’s style. I do this regularly with my consulting and coaching clients and may be able to help you too.

Mediation is my top choice for anyone who is getting divorced and wants the help of an experienced divorce professional. If difficult spouses will agree to participate in divorce mediation, a skilled mediator can turn the tides and settle cases more efficiently, easier and affordably than if you tried to do it on your own or took your case to court.

Find the best solutions to divorce problems

Divorce is a process that is essentially the same for anyone going through it.

In order to get divorced everyone must:

  1. File legal pleadings (documents) with the court
  2. Resolve all of the issues in four broad categories: property division, spousal support, child custody and child support
  3. Meet the state’s procedural requirements
  4. Take the real life steps necessary to carry out the terms of the divorce, like moving, finding a job, opening new bank accounts, etc.

Divorce solutions on the other hand, can be similar for some people going through divorce but are almost always tailored to the specific circumstances and needs of each divorcing person.

As an example, many divorcing couples own homes together with first and second mortgages, have separate property funds invested in their homes and pay community property expenses with separate property funds after separation and before divorce.

Generally speaking, all of these couples must resolve property issues in order to sever marital ties. But despite this common thread, the couples’ divorce solutions are likely to be unique and varied due to differing preferences, abilities, values, emotions, divorce teams and countless other factors. This is demonstrated by the following scenarios.

Couple One chooses to sell their home, pay off the mortgages, reimburse separate property funds invested in or used to pay associated costs of the property, then divide the remaining net proceeds equally.

Couple Two agrees to co-own their home after divorce and until their youngest child graduates from high school. Wife will live in the home with the children. The spouse whose separate property is invested in the home will defer reimbursement and either or both spouses will contribute to the mortgage, taxes, insurance and other related expenses.

Couple Three decides that Husband will buy-out Wife’s interest in the home and continue to own it after divorce. Husband’s separate property funds invested in the home will reduce the community equity and buy-out price. Wife lived in the home during separation and before divorce, but Husband waives his reimbursement claims. Husband will provide Wife with a cashier’s check for her interest in the house at the time the Interspousal Transfer Deed is signed.

Couple Four will co-own their house after divorce and rent it to third parties. The rent will be used to pay the housing expenses and the house will be placed in trust for the children. The spouse with the rights of reimbursement and/or credits waives these because the asset ultimately will be given to the couple’s children.

As you can see, there are a wide array of solutions that spouses may use when resolving divorce issues so finding the best solutions to divorce problems can simultaneously be simple and complex.

The key to finding your best solutions is to determine:

  1. What you want
  2. Whether acquiring or achieving what you want is feasible
  3. If your spouse will agree to give you what you want or
  4. If a judge can and will give you what you want

You may want to know which options are feasible before determining what you want. I suggest determining what you want first then developing a strategy to get what you want. If you are willing to assume any associated risks and do the necessary legwork, why wouldn’t you go for what you want? Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

If you’re like most and don’t know how to get what you want, you could prematurely conclude that it’s impossible to achieve your goals. I encourage you not to make premature conclusions.

There often are many different and creative ways to achieve the same result.

If you’re hitting a wall on your own or even if your attorney says you can’t get what you want, consider consulting with, or getting a second opinion from me or another experienced family law attorney.

I have a keen ability to find unique ways to achieve goals even when others are stumped. I chalk it up to an innate talent and my education, legal, real estate, business and life experience.

If you would like my help finding the best solutions to your divorce problems, please complete this confidential form to determine if I may be of service.

Why are women scared of prenuptial agreements?

Ninety nine percent of the people who contact me about prenuptial agreements are men. And in the last twenty years of my practice as an attorney, I cannot recall a single woman initiating the negotiations for, and execution of a prenuptial agreement.

This means that not one of the millions of marrying women in California has ever called or walked into my office and said, “Helene, I am getting legally married and I want a prenuptial agreement.”

This speaks volumes about women, many of whom believe in equal rights and freely describe themselves as feminists

It tells me that most women are hopeless romantics, superstitious, in denial and most significantly, taking senseless risks akin to having unprotected sex, smoking cigarettes and driving without wearing seat belts.

It also makes me feel that we are jeopardizing the strides our mothers and grandmothers made in securing the benefits we enjoy today.

Think about it.

We have the right to vote, to work and earn great incomes, even if paid 33% less than men (bogus). We can have babies almost on our own, remain single forever, own property, choose our faiths, become educated, be inventors and accumulate great wealth.

So I ask this of women everywhere:

With divorce rates at 50% for first marriages, 60% for second marriages and 70% for third marriages, WHY are women throwing caution to the wind and running to the alter unprotected?

Why are women pulling the wool over their eyes and risking it all in the name of love when it is common knowledge that many spouses cheat, lie, steal and succumb to addiction and mental illness?

Don’t give me any of these excuses I hear weekly.

I don’t expect to get divorced.

If I ask for a prenuptial agreement it means I don’t trust my fiance and I am foreshadowing divorce.

My estate planning is up to date and sufficiently protects my wealth.

I trust him/her.

We are young and/or do not have any assets to protect.

Almost no one expects to get divorced. I didn’t expect it. I also didn’t anticipate my husband would be a functioning alcoholic or that he would fight to keep all of our assets and leave me with the debt even though I was in law school and had supported him for years. No, I didn’t have a prenuptial and learned the hard way.

Unless you have other worldly powers, discussing prenuptial agreements does not predispose your marriage to, or cause divorce.

Estate planning does not protect you in the event of divorce although it can limit your losses.

Trust is a beautiful thing until it is lost. And, people change.

If you are young, your hard work will almost certainly lead you to receive income and assets during marriage that will be at issue in the event of divorce.

Prenuptial agreements are like seat belts, parachutes, the oxygen masks on airplanes.

Choosing to use a prenuptial agreement means you are pragmatic, care about yourself, want to be cautious and reduce the risk of harm in the event of divorce.

Asking your fiance to discuss and sign a prenuptial agreement means you want to confirm that your fiance is your ideal match and if he/she is not, choose not to marry this person.

Yes, I believe men and women who do not agree on how income, assets, expenses and debt will be managed during marriage and in the event of divorce, should not get married. Why?

Because I can tell you hundreds of heartbreaking stories about women whose husbands or wives cheated on them, lied to them, hid money, ran up debt, stopped supporting their families, were verbally, mentally and sometimes, physically abusive, reneged on verbal agreements they made before and during marriage and did countless other unscrupulous things that left these women out in the cold and scraping by.

I know you’re thinking this will never happen to you because you are ___________ and your fiance is _________. But it doesn’t matter.

There is a 50%, 60% or 70% chance that it will happen to you even if you are upper or middle class, educated, come from good homes, go to church, give back to the community….etc.

It can happen to you and if it does, I want you to be protected financially.

Don’t get me wrong. I want your marriage to be strong, fulfilling and stand the test of time.

I believe in love and connection and partnership.

I just want you to predetermine the terms of your legal marital partnership and divorce, if it should happen.

I want you to kick fear to the curb and embrace prenuptial agreements.

Don’t be scared. Choose to use a prenuptial agreement and I will help you make smart choices and have critical conversations that can make the prenuptial process easier.

Mention this article when you schedule your initial conversation with me and I will give you 10% or $300 off of the investment in my prenuptial coaching services.

The strongest relationships are those with clear expectations and understandings. Prenuptial agreements are the perfect tool to help you set your intentions and memorialize your agreements on the road to happily ever after.