In Ontario, what was previously known as an examination for discovery is now called questioning. I’ve previously discussed what questioning is.
Here are 8 tips about how to succeed at your questioning:
1. Give Precise Answers. If you’re asked how much you earned last year, give a dollar figure. Don’t explain why it was higher or lower than usual, or that it included a bonus. If someone is holding a pen and you’re asked “Do you know what this is?” the correct answer is “yes” not “a pen.”
2. Tell the Truth. Don’t try to outsmart your spouse’s lawyer. Not that your spouse’s lawyer is smarter than you, but they’ve been through this a lot more than you have.
3. Prepare in Advance. Ideally you’d review every document that has been produced in your case. At a minimum, you should be familiar with your financial statement and all the pleadings. Take the time to have your lawyer do a mock questioning of you.
4. Anything You Say Can and Will Be Used Against You. Remember that your questioning can only be used by your spouse’s lawyer to help your spouse’s case. Your lawyer can’t use your questioning to help you. So, don’t worry about trying to argue your case. Just answer the questions you’re asked.
5. “I Don’t Remember” is a Dangerous Answer. Think long and hard before you answer a question with “I don’t remember” (or even “I don’t know”). The problem is that you can be sure your spouse will have a vivid memory of everything you forget. Even if what your spouse says is completely made up, you’ll have a hard time convincing a judge otherwise, because you’ve already sworn that you don’t remember.
6. You’re Not Stupid. Often a lawyer will use unfamiliar terms, sometimes purposefully to confuse you, but oftentimes simply out of habit. If you don’t understand what you’ve been asked, get it clarified. No one will think less of you if you do this, and you may be saving yourself from answering the wrong question.
7. Your Lawyer Can Only Help So Much. Your lawyer’s role is mainly to ensure that you’re not asked inappropriate questions. So, there may be large periods of time when all your lawyer seems to do is sit there and listen.
8. Don’t Answer Until the Question is Asked. In normal speech, we often start talking once we know what the other person is going to say. At questioning this is a problem, as a reporter will need to write down what two people are saying at once. It’s a good idea to speak loudly and clearly as well so that the reporter correctly records what you say.
Will you still be stressed even if you do all the above? Yes, and you probably won’t sleep well the night before, and after your questioning you’ll probably think of all sorts of better answers you could have given. That’s normal and happens to everyone. But if you keep these tips in mind, your questioning will go a lot more smoothly.