Preparing for a Texas Deposition

Court cases are won and lost on the strength of the evidence. The biggest piece of evidence is usually the testimony of the parties and witnesses. This is why at the Schneider Law Firm we spend a lot of our trial preparation time with or clients reviewing their anticipated testimony. As a rule of thumb I like to prepare with my client a minimum of three hours for every one hour we anticipate they will testify.

There are two primary situations in which testimony is taken in Texas. The first is obviously in a court room with a judge and/or jury listening. The other is in a deposition. A deposition is a procedure whereby attorneys are allowed to question witnesses under oath outside the courtroom setting and prior to the trial.

In Texas criminal cases such as assaults, DWI, or drug cases, depositions are extremely rare. Testimony preparation is therefore geared toward the courtroom environment. In civil cases such as divorces, custody suits, or personal injury suits, depositions are routine and are often given great weight when deciding whether a claim has merit.

In either of these scenarios it is important to be prepared. In an attempt to get my clients prepared  for a Texas deposition I usually review the following list at the beginning of each meeting. Even though this is list specifically written for deposition preparation,  most suggestions contained apply equally to just about any scenario where testimony is being taken.

Deposition Prep Checklist

1.) Tell the truth
• Perjury in an official proceeding is a 3rd Degree felony
• Even falsehoods on a minor or irrelevant issue can be used to destroy your credibility at trial.
• Note however, telling the truth does not mean volunteering information…answer truthfully, but only what is ASKED.

2.) Bring nothing with you in the room unless I have reviewed and approved
• This includes personal notes
• TRE 612 allows an examiner to review any notes or documents used to refresh a deponent’s memory.

3.) Listen carefully, then pause
• You should listen to each question carefully
• Questions may not be as simple as they seem
• Do not be afraid to ask for clarification or rereading if the question is not understood
• The record of the transcript WILL NOT contain your pauses, so don’t worry about taking time to formulate your answers in your head
• Pauses also give me a chance to object if necessary.

4.) If a document is presented, read it CAREFULLY

5.) Private conferences with me during the deposition are improper and generally not allowed
• The only exception is to decide whether a question violates a privilege (Attorney/Client, Trade Secret, etc.)
• We can conference during breaks
• Despite this rule, I would rather you ask for a conference than answer a question untruthfully, inaccurately or in excess

6.) Discuss with me during a break if you need to change an answer
• Don’t just blurt it out on the record
• Small, technical changes can be when we are reviewing the transcript

7.) Qualifying answers
• When appropriate use the terms “To the best of my recollection,” or “I believe it was/is…”
• DO NOT qualify answers that you are factually certain about

8.) NEVER Speculate
• If you don’t know an answer, say so!
• Unless specifically asked for an opinion, don’t give one.
• If asked for date or time, only answer if specifically known. “On or about…” “I believe it was…”

9.) Answer only the question posed
• Don’t try to guess the next question
• Short answers are best
• Yes/No are ideal so long as accurate and not misleading
• If, and only if, a short answer is misleading should you explain

NOTE: Depositions are only one phase of a case…you will get time in trial to clarify your answers and present your own evidence

10.) If I say don’t answer, then don’t answer

11.) Objections are ruled on at a later date
• Most of the time you will still need to answer the question…but see #10
• Objections in a deposition are very limited and are usually just “place markers”
• Exceptions: Not Relevant, Privileged

12.) Don’t promise future help
• The law requires you answer questions, not make agreements
• Don’t agree to be available, produce anything, or look up anything

13.) Don’t get angry or emotional or rattled
• Don’t argue
• Don’t address the opposing party
• No name calling or abusive language
• Don’t project feelings about OP on the OC

14.) The examiner is NOT your friend
• Be polite, but vigilant
• Do not concern yourself with convincing the examiner
• Do not be concerned with the examiners confusion…if you have answered truthfully you have done your job

15.) Speak Clearly

16.) Be prepared for sensitive questions
• Inform me of worrisome issues so we can discuss

17.) Don’t assume the examiners summary of facts is correct
• Listen carefully
• If you have no personal knowledge of the summary then say so
• Don’t let examiner put words in your mouth

18.) If I object stop talking. Don’t start again until directed

19.) My objections may give hints as to what or how to answer

20.) No duets

21.) If you need a break, let me know

This is meant as a general overview only and is by no means a substitute for the advice of a good lawyer that is tailored to your situation.

P. Micheal Schneider

The P. Micheal Schneider Law Firm P.C.

817-850-9955

www.teamslf.com

mike@clientdrivenlaw.com

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Q & A: Ten Frequently Asked Questions about Temporary Orders Hearings in a Texas Divorce or Custody Case

Over my career at the Schneider Law Firm I’ve met with hundreds  of individuals contemplating a Texas Divorce or Custody suit. One of the most common questions that comes up in a Divorce or Custody consult is what can we do now to protect their children and assets. The answer in Texas is a Temporary Orders Hearing. Here are 10 frequently asked questions to help you understand the process.

1. What is a Temporary Orders Hearing?

A Temporary Orders hearing is a hearing that is held after a petition for Texas divorce or custody is filed with the court that puts orders in place until you can have a final trial or otherwise settle your case.  Not all matters are entitled to a Temporary Orders hearing.

2. How soon does a Temporary Orders hearing occur in a case?

Typically, Temporary Orders hearings are held within two weeks of filing your suit if a Temporary Restraining Order has been requested by a party.  If no TRO is requested the timing of the Temporary Orders hearing can vary depending on the urgency of the relief requested and procedural considerations.

3.  What is the difference between a Temporary Restraining Order and a Temporary Order?

A Temporary Restraining Order is a short term restriction on a person wherein, once served, that person cannot do certain actions such as sell or destroy property, cancel utilities, or disturb the children’s routine.  Unlike a Temporary Order, a Temporary Restraining Order does not require a hearing, but is only good for 14 days.  A Temporary Restraining Order allows the court to keep the parties’ status quo between the time of filing a suit and the actual Temporary Orders hearing.

4. What is the difference between a Temporary Order and a Protective Order? 

A Protective Order is an order that provides protection for a person after the court determines family violence has occurred and is likely to occur again in the future, wherein the Defendant is ordered to stay a certain distance from the Applicant and the Applicant’s home, employer, school, etc.  along with other restrictions as determined by the Court.  A Protective Order is different from a Temporary Order  in that  if a person violates a Protective Order, law enforcement may immediately take that person into custody, wherein violation of a Temporary Order leads to a possible contempt action which requires a hearing and proper notice to the person.

5. What is decided at a Temporary Orders Hearing?

At a Temporary Orders hearing, the Court may decide issues that need immediate attention during the pendency of a case.  For example, in a Fort Worth, TX divorce matter the Court may decide who remains in the marital home and who must vacate, temporary spousal support, payment of monthly expenses, and if there are children, who has primary possession of the children and who pays child support.  When children are involved, the best interest of the children is always the court’s utmost concern in establishing Temporary Orders.

6. How should I dress for a Temporary Orders hearing?

You should dress conservatively as if you were going to church or an important job interview. Generally, dark colors are preferred and all clothing should be properly fitted and hemmed. Your hair should be washed and combed and any makeup should be of a neutral color.

7. What should I bring to a Temporary Orders hearing? 

Typically, the local rules of your county will require each party to bring proof of his or her income as well as a detailed summary of the monthly expenses.  Additionally a litigant should be prepared to provide documentation or evidence for any issues they would like to address with the court for the purposes of establishing Temporary Orders. Examples of this are business records from Child Protective Services or the child’s school, police reports, bank statements, emails/texts or photographs.

8. How formal are Temporary Orders hearings?

A litigant should be prepared for a formal hearing and prepare and dress for such.  However, unlike a final trial, many times a Temporary Orders hearing is less formal in that a court reporter is not always available to take a record and many issues may be resolved by simply approaching the bench and discussing the matter with the presiding judge. In this regard, local custom varies and an experienced lawyer will know the particular court’s preference.

9. Can I appeal a decision of the judge regarding Temporary Orders? 

Yes, if Temporary Orders are decided by an associate judge, a litigant may appeal that decision to the district judge of that court. This is called a de novo appeal.  However, the litigant should be aware that there is a very short deadline to file such an appeal and should act promptly.

10. What happens if someone violates a Temporary Order?

If a party violates the Temporary Order, the other party may file for an enforcement of those orders and ask that the violating party be held in contempt of court.  If the Court finds that a party is in violation of the Temporary Orders, it may hold that person in contempt and punish him or her with fines and/or jail time and is likely to order the violating party to reimburse reasonable attorney fees to the moving party for having to bring such an action.

 

This is a very simple overview of the Temporary Order Process in a Texas Divorce or Custody Case. This is not meant to serve as specific legal advice. Each case is different. Hire a good lawyer!

Alison Porterfield, Attorney

Alison@clientdrivenlaw.com

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