How to Write a Child Custody Deposition
By Kate Sheridan
Updated July 21, 2017
A child custody deposition is sworn testimony given by parents and witnesses in a child custody court case. The deposition is usually conducted in the courthouse or in an attorney’s office. A court reporter records the testimony for the official court record, and the information, a form of “discovery,” may be used in the courtroom by either party or the judge to demonstrate the qualifications, or lack of qualifications, of one or the other parents.
Writing Deposition Questions
Prepare an outline of the areas you want to cover in your or your lawyer’s questioning. Break the information into subject areas, such as past history of involvement in the child’s life, finances, housing, work schedule and other relevant categories. Keep your questions relevant to the custody situation; don’t probe other areas.
Develop questions that are specific and quantifiable. Your custody rival will find it more difficult to evade or fudge questions that require fact-based answers. If your opponent doesn't know basic facts about the child's life, find that out during the deposition and bring that lack of knowledge up during the trial. Ask such questions as, “Who is Susie’s doctor/dentist/teacher? How many times did you accompany Susie to the doctor/dentist this year? How many parent-teacher conferences did you attend?” Know the true answers to any questions you pose.
Write your questions in a direct, polite manner, no matter who the witness is or how hostile they may be toward you. Don’t be snide, accusatory or rude.
Writing Deposition Responses
Answer deposition questions truthfully. You are under oath and a court reporter will be documenting every word. Courts can impose perjury penalties on witnesses who are not truthful in a written deposition, called an “interrogatory.”
Respond as specifically and clearly as you can. Stick to facts without adding opinion or passing judgment. Avoid using vague, subjective words such as “think” or “feel.”
Avoid guessing. If you are not sure of an answer, write “I don’t know” or “I was not part of that conversation” or “In my position, I did not have access to that information.”
Keep your sentences short. Don’t exaggerate, write in all uppercase letters or use exclamation points for emphasis. Write in the active voice.
Refer to the child in question by name. Custody documents, including interrogatories and depositions, may refer to the youngster as “the minor child.” Avoid responding in kind.
When answering written questions under oath, try to imagine yourself answering the same question in a courtroom on the witness stand. That is very likely to be the case. Be sure your written answer stands up to scrutiny when verbalized.
Read deposition questions very carefully before responding. Be aware opposing lawyers may try to reinterpret your responses to be more favorable to their clients.
Kate Sheridan is a freelance writer, researcher, blogger, reporter and photographer whose work has appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines and trade publications for over 35 years. She attended Oakland University and The University of Michigan, beginning her journalism career as an intern at the "Rochester Eccentric." She's received honors from the Michigan Press Association, American Marketing Association and the State of Michigan Department of Commerce.