Deposition questions about a spouse’s bad behavior

If child custody is an issue in a divorce case, the divorce attorney will want to question the opposing spouse about his or her bad behavior and failings as a parent at the spouse’s deposition. Below are some of the areas to explore.

Domestic violence.

Theoretically, custody shouldn’t be contested if one spouse has committed domestic violence, but it often is. Any episode of violence against the other party needs to be explored and explained.

Educational background.

Education can be an important component of being able to help children taking advanced calculus, for example.

Drinking, driving while impaired, drug use, addictions, and other criminal conduct.

The spouse should be questioned about the impact of this conduct on his or her interaction with and care for children. When a family law lawyer asks the opposing spouse about criminal conduct in a deposition, the spouse’s lawyer will often object to the question on Fifth Amendment grounds, especially if criminal charges remain pending and undetermined. In many states, exercise of the Fifth Amendment privilege gives rise to a presumption the unstated answer is unfavorable to the witness claiming the right against self-incrimination.

Mental health issues.

Mental health issues are almost everywhere the subject of several legal privileges against disclosure, and a myriad of different required procedures prior to disclosure, unless disclosure by the treated person is volunteered. The attorneys should discuss possible objections to these types of questions before the deposition, so that issues can be identified and the requisite steps taken to either secure disclosure, or attempt to obtain the information sought by other means.

Cruelty and excessive discipline.

The spouse should be questioned about excessive use of corporal punishment and any incidents of cruel or unusual discipline. The spouse should also be questioned about unpleasant or inappropriate interaction with children such as hurtful or humiliating comments to the children in private or in front of others.