Don’t Have a Lawyer and Facing an Examination for Discovery: Here is What You Need to Know

Author: Vancouver Family Lawyer Marcus M. Sixta

Facing an examination for discovery or deposition in a family law case can be intimidating. The thought of sitting in a board room while an over zealous lawyer peppers you with questions and a stenographer looks on with cruel indifference can be the cause of many sleepless nights. This is especially true if you are self-represented and do not have a lawyer to advise and protect you.

More and more often in family law cases, people are representing themselves. The reasons for this are many but most often it is due to a lack of funds to pay for a lawyer and being rejected by Legal Aid. This issue has gotten so bad that in some places the majority of family law files have at least one self-represented party. New models of legal services are required to deal with this issue and that is why Crossroads Law offers legal coaching and unbundled legal services to help people represent themselves better in family law cases. 

As part of our commitment to addressing this issue, we provide free information that can assist those who choose to go it alone in family court. Therefore, we have put together the following helpful tips when facing an examination for discovery or deposition after separation or divorce:

  • The other side has the right to ask you questions. The questions they or their lawyer can ask may be about almost anything that is relevant to your file. However, there are limits to what they can ask you including, but not limited to, information that is privileged because it is between you and a lawyer who has represented you, questions that are too vague or confusing to be answered, and asking you for a legal opinion or legal conclusion. If you are asked any of these types of questions you may want to object. The court can help determine if you should have answered this question later. 
  • Listen to the question first before you answer it and do not answer without thinking. Give your self at least a second to think. You must tell the truth so be careful about your answer. 
  • Do not volunteer information that is not asked of you. You do not want to ramble on and on as this will give the other side lots of information which they can use to try to make you look inconsistent later. 
  • Remember that the transcript may be read by the judge later so be respectful and patient. You do not want to give a poor impression. 
  • If you do not understand a question, say so. The lawyer will repeat the question again. Sometimes questions can be vague, misleading or just plain confusing. Do not answer these types of questions. Ask for clarity. 
  • If you do not know the answer to a question or can’t remember just say so. An acceptable part of the process is agreeing that you will answer a question later after you have looked into the issue.  
  • You need to review the case in detail before you are examined, especially all of your affidavits. You do not want to give inconsistent answers as this will hurt your credibility. 
  • Do not guess. You can look into an issue and answer it later. 
  • Do not argue with the lawyer. This will make you look bad in the transcript and it also reduces your credibility as it gives the appearance that you are avoiding the answer. 
  • Do not mumble your answers or talk too quickly. The stenographer / court reporter needs to be able to capture what is being said. 
  • If you need a translator you will need to request one in advance. The cost should be paid for by the other side if they want to examine you.

Examination for discovery in a family law case can be intimidating, especially if you don’t qualify for Legal Aid and have to represent yourself. However, with the right preparation you will get through it with your credibility intact. If you do need any help to get ready in the background contact Crossroads Law for more information about our legal coaching options. 

The information contained in this blog is not legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject. The information provided in this blog is for informational purposes only.