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Custody-related deposition questions


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#1 blackbird

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 01:39 AM

I typed these up for you Spring, but thought it might be helpful for anyone else here heading into a deposition or trial to get a sense for what kinds of questions might be asked and how.

My deposition was five hours long, but at least half of it was financial-related. I left those questions off of this post. I did type up The Vile Henchman's questions which related to custody and fitness of the parent.

A deposition is different than trial testimony, in that The Vile Henchman was able to go on a fishing expedition; there was no judge present to tell him to wrap things up or declare certain issues irrelevant.

At trial, the opposing attorney will want to discredit you and protect their client from anything that casts him in a poor light. If you and your attorney don't bring damaging examples to the forefront, your husband's attorney will likely leave those examples alone as they only sully his client's reputation. Also, if you aren't argumentative, the opposing attorney won't be able to get away with being quite so condescending, since the judge is sitting right there.

I typed the questions up in black, my (often) paraphrased answers in red where necessary, so that you could follow the lines of questioning, and my notes to you in green.

Some of this is repetitive, but I wanted you to see that the questioning is often very methodical. You need to be very careful. I found that when I got tired, it was easy to fall into the pattern of responding the same way to the same questions, even if the situations were different and called for different answers. Stay focused! Ask your attorney ahead of time if you can request a break if you get tired or frazzled.

The questions you're asked, Spring, may be very different, but hopefully you'll be able to see that they're pulling from information you will have provided to them through discovery, not to mention any skeletons in the closet that might be used to intimidate you on the stand. Be prepared to discuss the darkest moments of your life. If your ex knows about them, they may make an appearance.

I did want to mention a few things:

-I knew nothing about domestic violence when I walked into my deposition. You are leaps and bounds ahead of me, as you'll be able to better understand the reasons for your behavior and be able to communicate that to the judge. This is huge!

-I walked into my deposition on two hours sleep, completely exhausted. I had my kids the week of my deposition and school was canceled due to snow on two days. I had very little time to prepare and crammed the night before. As a result, I know I didn't perform well. The Vile Henchman kept asking me for more examples, but my mind went completely blank. The good news is that you're preparing now...and in a trial situation, your attorney will have the opportunity to question you and draw those important examples out. So...get lots of rest and know that you don't have to remember everything yourself; your attorney is there to help.

-Your demeanor in the courtroom matters! Speak clearly and intelligently. Always, always, always be polite and considerate. If your stbx is an arrogant a-hole, the judge will see right through that.

-I brought a cup of coffee to my deposition. I didn't think anything of it at the time, but that cup of coffee saved my life. Even after it was long gone, I had something to hold with a death grip throughout my questioning. They couldn't tell I was shaking like a leaf, as I was able to channel my terror into that cup. In a courtroom, you won't be able to bring in a cup of coffee, of course, but if you can hold onto some sort of a prop while you're sitting next to your attorney, that might be helpful. When I was on the witness stand, The Vile Henchman had me flip through books of evidence so that I could respond to his questions. Even when it was okay for me to return the books to the box, I held one in my lap to steady my hands. It gave me the appearance of calm.

So, skipping past the "state your name" and financial stuff, here are the questions I was asked:


Are you seeing a therapist?
Who?
How often?
What have you been counseling about?

My attorney objected; The Vile Henchman argued my mental heath was an issue as it related to custody. My attorney instructed me to answer in a general sense, not to discuss the specifics of our conversations.

Answer: I've been discussing my emotional state during the divorce, and I've also discussed issues that have arisen with the children and how I can best support them.

At every opportunity, try to show that you are actively seeking expert advice and acting in your children's best interests. You need to be viewed as the concerned, knowledgeable parent (which won't be hard, because you are!).


What issues have you addressed with regard to the children's well-being with her?
And has that effort been successful?
I'm asking you to describe what you're seeing, what you're experiencing.
What strategies are you using to address [their anxiety]?

To my response about trying to establish some normality, he askedů


Is your house normal?
Is your house normal today?
On a scale of one to ten, how successful do you think the counseling has been in dealing with those issues?
Would you say that with regard to your counseling on your emotional state, have you been successful in resolving those issues with her?
Again, on a scale of one to ten, how successful has that been?

Now, in your answer to interrogatory No. 18, you have said, and I quote, "Mr. Satan's lack of medical insurance for the family has prevented her," I'm assuming you, "from having regular medical care."
Can you tell me what medical care it is that you wanted to have that you were unable to get as a result of not having medical coverage?
You didn't have any medical or dental exams?
You had money that was available to go get medical or dental treatment. Why didn't you do that?
Now, is it your testimony that my client prohibited you from getting medical or dental treatment during the marriage?
When did you make those requests?
Who was present during the request you made in 2004?
Who was present when you made the request in 2005?
You said, I need to go to the dentist, and what did he say?
You could have just called the dentist and made an appointment, couldn't you have?
Have the children had their regular medical appointments and dental appointments that they needed?
Are they missing anything that they need at this point?
And during that appointment, did the dentist--what did the dentist find with regard to the children's dental health?

Now, with regard to the sole decision-making power on medical issues granted solely to you, why do you believe that's appropriate?

Long answer about Satan not allowing me to seek dental care for Twin1. 2-1/2 years later he had an abscessed tooth. Rather than allow me to take him to the dentist, he purchased Twin1 dental floss. Six months later, the tooth could not be saved and had to be pulled.


When did this happen?
You did not make any dental appointments during that time frame?
You could have picked up the phone and made the appointments?
You could have, couldn't you?
How did he control your finances?
Have the children been denied any medical treatment or care that has resulted in any physical injury to them?
Who is the dentist you took him to?
Who's taken them to those dental appointments?

(Referring to my Answers to Interrogatories) Then your next sentence was, "Primary physical placement with mother." Why do you think that's in the children's best interests?

Answered about my kick-assedness as a mother


Is it your position my client doesn't do these things with the children?
Tell me what you think their relationship is.

I stated I think the children are afraid of their father.


How do they exhibit that fear?
What do they say to you?
Give me an example.

I was not prepared to succinctly articulate their fear. Be able to paint a vivid picture of their emotional and physical reactions, as well as relay anything they said to you.

Is it possible that Twin1 did something wrong that justified him being yelled at?

Answered that Satan routinely overreacted to normal childhood behaviors.


What do you mean by that?
Give me an example of a behavior and how he acted.

Shared the time the boys were playing their Gameboy after Satan had told them it was off limits. He took them into the garage and smashed it in front of them and threw it away. They were terrified when they came back into the house.

You think it was appropriate for the children to disobey their dad?
Do you ever yell at the children?
Are you ever impatient with the children?
Have you ever sent the children to their room?
When you're angry at them?
Do you have other examples of what you mean by overreacting?

Is it your position that the children shouldn't see their father?
Is it your position that it wouldn't be appropriate for them to spend a lot of time with their father?
What limitations would you think are appropriate?
Would you find that an acceptable parenting situation, if the situation were reversed and you were offered an alternating weekend schedule with your children? Just so we're clear, is it your position that my client provides no positive influence in the children's lives whatsoever?

It's my position that his negative influence far outweighs his positive influence (my attorney smiled at that one ).

Was it your request back in the fall that my client take the children and go on a trip?
Did you feel they were endangered going with him on that trip?
Did you feel that that would have been a positive, good thing for the children to do?
And it turned out to be very positive, didn't it?
You're expecting they're going to do homework when they're on vacation?
Do you think the kids had fun, though, on the trip other than not having completed their homework?
And were they hurt or injured or did anything bad happen to them during the trip?

(Again in reference to my Answers to Interrogatories) "Set forth with particularity all facts upon which you rely to establish your claim for legal and physical
custody of the child." Your answer begins, "Petitioner was/is verbally/emotionally abusive toward the children." Explain that.

He undermines their confidence.


How?

Answered: totally uninvolved, then yelled at kids who had speech delays and lacked confidence in their academics regarding weak grades.


As a result of that, did the children's performance get worse or deteriorate, or what was the consequence of him having that interaction you talked about?
Did the children do better after that?

He actually tried to suggest that Satan shamed them into better grades, when in fact it was because they busted their tails, no thanks to him.

Any other examples of him allegedly being verbally or emotionally abusive to the children?

Answered: He was repeatedly emotionally and verbally abusive to me in front of the children.

Here's where his tone got really nasty and condescending...


I'm on the children, I'm not talking about you yet. We'll get to you, okay?

So, other examples of him being emotionally and verbally abusive of the children?

If you come up against this, take a deep breath and respond calmly. Don't let the opposing attorney draw you into an angered response. That's exactly what they're after!

Answered: Satan throwing Twin1, who was afraid of the water, off of a pontoon into a deep lake (he was wearing a lifejacket, but was terrified)


Were you present during that?
What happened?
Was he endangered as a result of that?
Was he tense in the water prior to that incident?
Have you put him in swimming lessons or done things to help him deal with his fear of being involved in the water, or are you just letting him not deal with that? You would agree it's important for him to learn to swim?
So what are you doing to help him do that?
Other than those two incidents, can you think of anything else that would support your position that my client was verbally or emotionally abusive to the children?

You say in your answer that he has also been physically abusive toward the children.
Give me examples of when he was being physically abusive to your children.

Answered: he routinely hit them in the back of the head when he was angry


Did you call the police?
Did you seek a restraining order on their behalf saying that he had domestically abused the children?
Did you report the incidents to third parties?

Answered: there were witnesses


Who was present?
How hard would he hit the children when he did this?
Was this something that just came out of nowhere, or was it to correct some behavior on the part of the children?
What were the children doing when he used this method of getting their attention?
How frequently did this happen?
And over what timeframe did that occur?
Did you talk to him about it?
What did you say?
What did he say?
Were the children taken to the doctor or have any medical treatment as a result of this?
As far as you can tell, do they have any long-term consequences as a result of this?

Again, with the nasty tone...


So now you wanted to tell me about when he was verbally and emotionally abusive to you. Here's your opportunity. Give me those examples that you have.

Answered: the time he launched into a rage, locked the bedroom door (adjacent to the twins' room), blared the TV, and threw my belongings around the room for an hour. The kids were terrified and when I asked him to stop, he told me that if it bothered me so much, I could call my dad to pick us up.

Did you call the police?
Did you call your father?
Did you report this to third parties?
Did you seek a restraining order or other kind of protective order as a result of this?
Any other examples?

Answered: the time Satan screamed I should get an abortion and threw the first aid kit across the room, as I was getting the twins ready for school.

Do you think the children understood what an abortion was?

Answered: No, but I certainly believe they understood what it meant to have a first aid kit thrown across the room.


Did it hit you?
Did it hit the children?
Did you call the police?
Did you report it to third parties?
Did you seek a restraining order against my client?
Next incident, if there are any.

Answered: the time Satan slapped me across the face for confronting him about how he had "disciplined" Twin1.

It was you and my client present during that?
Anyone else?
Did you report it to the police?
Did you seek a restraining order?
Did you report it to third parties?
Who did you report this to after the filing of the divorce?
Are there any other incidents?

Answered: the time Satan ordered me to leave my credit cards on the counter and leave in front of the children when I didn't sign his divorce papers without an attorney's review. When I expressed my fear about his threats to withhold financially, he said, "That's not a threat, that's a promise."

Did he physically touch you?
Did you call the police?
Did you report this to third parties?
Did you seek a restraining order?

Now, you said in the spring of 2008, you wanted to go to marriage counseling with my client?
Did you believe the marriage was revocable at that point?
Did you believe my client was a reasonable person to continue being married to at that point in time?
You didn't believe that the marriage was such that you went out and tried to seek a divorce at any point in time, correct?

Answered that I did leave on one occasion.

When did you leave?
How long were you gone?
But you returned.

Have you ever been physically aggressive towards my client?
Have you ever approached him yelling at him, hitting car doors or car windows or being angry at him before?

(Referring to Answers to Interrogatories) Your next sentence in your answer is that, "Petitioner shows a pattern of self-indulgent behavior, while simultaneously neglecting the children's needs." Can you explain that answer to me?

(Referring back to Answers to Interrogatories) Your next answer is, "Petitioner is overly controlling of the children, showing restrictiveness, anger, and shaming toward child behaviors." Explain that answer.

Next item is, "Petitioner has consistently been disengaged from the children by choice." What do you mean by that?
He doesn't go to the children's activities?
Does he participate in any of their conferences?
Does he talk to the children and interact with them at home?
Does he play with the children?
Does he have the children help him with things around the home when he's doing things around the home?
He doesn't just come in the house and just ignore them all day, true?
Any other examples of being disengaged from the children by choice?
Wouldn't it be fair to state that you were having marital trouble this summer?
So perhaps my client not being home is because you guys weren't getting along?
Any other examples?

(Back to Answers to Interrogatories) The next item you list is, "Petitioner exhibits and endorses dishonest behavior in front of the children." Can you explain this answer?

Answered: the time he signed the kids up for a fitness center even though they were underage. The purpose? To train for a half marathon (they were 10!), for which they were also underage. The kids told me "Dad lied," "We cheated."

What do you mean by that?
Were the children harmed as a result of that?
You didn't want them to participate in this activity from the beginning, correct?
So the answer is you weren't supportive of them participating in this activity.
This particular race, okay, fine. Did the kids want to do it?
So you stopped them. You stopped them from doing it?
How did you handle that (voicing my objections)?
So what was the upshot then, what happened?
They seem to like doing that, though, as far as you can tell?

Answered: twins did, DS8 did not

That's not unusual, is it?
The boys don't always like every thing the same?

Answered: no childcare available, DS8 sat on the floor unattended and bored


You have a list of persons with knowledge of the custody situation, and I want to go through those with you.

He then read through each person, asked me about my relationship with each party, how long I have known them, and what they would tell him if they were asked about the custody situation.


Now, how do you and my client discuss issues related to the children typically?

Answered: email


Why have you chosen that method of discussion?
Are you opposed to talking to my client on the phone regarding the children?
But if something is a bit more urgent, wouldn't it make more sense, as opposed to email?

Now, question 24 (Answers to Interrogatories) is, "Do you feel Petitioner is a good father," and you answered no. Explain your answer.

Answered the he was a lying, controlling, abusive a-hole

Nonetheless you wanted to reconcile and stay with him as of the spring of 08.

This is not related to custody, but if there's anything your stbx knows about that could be used to rattle you with under the guise of "mental health," be ready! If they can engage in psychological warfare, they will. And don't expect any sort of empathy or kindness when difficult questions like these are addressed. The Vile Henchman was cold and cruel.


Have you ever told anyone that you've been sexually abused in the past?
Is that true?
Who sexually abused you?
Were the police involved?
And when did that happen?
I mean, what year was that?
Have you counseled or been involved in any counseling as a result of that assault?

Answered: beginning to discuss that with my counselor now


Did you counsel at that time?

Answered: didn't tell anyone

Or did you do anything to address that?

Answered: no

Were the police ever involved in that, or did the person that did this to you, were they criminally charged?
Has that caused you any trauma in your life or problems in your life as a result of this?
Have you had any emotional problems as a result of that assault?
Did it impact your marriage in any way with my client?
You said you're now addressing that in counseling. Why is it now an issue?

Answered (and I liked this one!): I'm trying to understand how I found myself in an abusive relationship.


F' you, Vile Henchman!

I hope this is at least a little helpful and gives you a sense of what the questioning may be like.

Good luck, Spring. You'll be phenomenal.
bb

#2 springtulip

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 09:04 AM

OMG!!! thank you BB!!!


you are the best! this is so helpful!


xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

#3 springtulip

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 09:12 AM

yes, i know i will have to answer ?'s about some post partum depression after my c-section 7 yrs ago. SOS was one of those abusers that always would say i was a nutjob, had emotional problems, etc.... i actually read an old email as i was going thru my docs last night where he said "please come home. you are not well. we can get you the help you need." ummmm....no prickstain. i left cause you were suicidal, possibly homocidal and i feared you.
lmfao....what a complete idiot. of course, he copied my family on this email! *rolleyes* what a douchebag.

#4 SM

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 09:26 AM

BB, I got to the second group of questions and had to take a break from reading them. I was getting sick on my stomach imagining being asked such pointed, personal questions. Aren't your counseling sessions supposed to be private? Apparently not.

Spring, you are soooo in my thoughts and prayers.

And Blackbird, I didn't think it was possible for me to admire you any more. But apparently I was wrong about that too. You are an incredibly strong woman. We are all so lucky that you share your wisdom with us.

(((((SpringTulip and BB)))))

SM

#5 Chloe

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 09:38 AM

QUOTE (SM @ Jul 25 2010, 12:26 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
And Blackbird, I didn't think it was possible for me to admire you any more. But apparently I was wrong about that too. You are an incredibly strong woman. We are all so lucky that you share your wisdom with us.

(((((SpringTulip and BB)))))

SM


I TOTALLY agree with SM, I think strong is an understatement ((((bb)))) You're an inspiration, no doubt.

#6 springtulip

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 10:03 AM

QUOTE (Chloe @ Jul 24 2010, 09:38 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I TOTALLY agree with SM, I think strong is an understatement ((((bb)))) You're an inspiration, no doubt.



amen sistahs.... smile.gif

#7 blackbird

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 10:13 AM

QUOTE (springtulip @ Jul 24 2010, 09:12 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
yes, i know i will have to answer ?'s about some post partum depression after my c-section 7 yrs ago. SOS was one of those abusers that always would say i was a nutjob, had emotional problems, etc.... i actually read an old email as i was going thru my docs last night where he said "please come home. you are not well. we can get you the help you need." ummmm....no prickstain. i left cause you were suicidal, possibly homocidal and i feared you.
lmfao....what a complete idiot. of course, he copied my family on this email! *rolleyes* what a douchebag.

Prickstain... Yeah, that sounds about right.

Definitely be prepared to answer questions about your post partum depression. Did you seek out professional help? If so, make it very clear that you understood you were struggling and reached out. ALWAYS highlight the fact that you were proactive in seeking out your own healing.

Like I said before, you will do SOOOOO much better than I did during my depo, because you so clearly understand domestic violence. Just remember to keep any explanations you have to examples of his behavior...what he said, what he did, that DEMONSTRATES his abusiveness and then describe how that affected you. Steer clear of describing the dynamics from the perspective of an expert (how abusers control their victims in a general sense), as that kind of testimony will be striken from the record.

You'll do great, Spring. Just expect that the opposing attorney's tone will be very condescending throughout. If you suggest that your ex was abusive, he will hammer you about why you didn't contact police (if you didn't), why you didn't seek out counseling (if you didn't), and why you chose to stay. Obviously, all of that makes sense to us, but he'll try to paint a picture that it wasn't really that bad, and that you're only claiming abuse now to gain the upper hand in your custody fight.

Oh, one thing my attorney hammered home to me. If SOS was emotionally and verbally abusive, but wasn't physically abusive, DO NOT use words like domestic violence and batterer in the courtroom. The legal definitions of batterer and DV are far more constrictive and if you weren't beaten, the opposing attorney will pounce on you. Instead, stick to words like abuse and abuser.

#8 blackbird

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 10:19 AM

QUOTE (SM @ Jul 24 2010, 09:26 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
BB, I got to the second group of questions and had to take a break from reading them. I was getting sick on my stomach imagining being asked such pointed, personal questions. Aren't your counseling sessions supposed to be private? Apparently not.

The deposition dragged on forever. By the time I got home, I felt like I had been beaten with a stick for several hours. I fared much better at trial, because I had faced down The Vile Henchman once before so knew what to expect...and because I was MUCH better prepared.

The questions wouldn't have been so bad, had they been asked with any sense of compassion, but they weren't. His tone throughout was one of utter contempt and disbelief.

Because this was a deposition, he was able to probe more deeply than he might have been able to at trial. My attorney did object about the counseling questions, but he argued that my mental health was in question (a-hole). She told me I could respond in a very general sense, but not to talk about specific conversations. You would never have to discuss specifics in a legal setting, as those conversations are confidential.

#9 blackbird

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 10:20 AM

Awwww... Thanks, SM, Chloe, and ST! wub.gif

Yes, it was awful, but I know now that it was really good for me. I'm a hell of a lot tougher than I ever was before.

Spring will be brilliant. I can't wait for the rundown!!!!!

#10 springtulip

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 10:24 AM

QUOTE (blackbird @ Jul 24 2010, 11:20 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I can't wait for the rundown!!!!!



run down?? did you mean that literally?

oh, you meant me telling everyone how it went after it's over... i was thinking of something else. lol...


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