A deposition is a legal process in which an attorney can obtain sworn testimony from a person without being in a courtroom before a judge. The deposition usually takes place in the office of the attorney taking the deposition or some other mutually agreeable place. The deponent (person being deposed) may be a party to the lawsuit or a potential witness Either party can be required to appear and testify at a deposition and other persons not a party in the case may also be required to appear and testify at a deposition also, including expert witnesses, family, friends, and any other person with knowledge or information that is relevant to the case.
A court reporter is present at the deposition to administer an oath and make a written transcript of what is said at the deposition. In family law matters, those present at a deposition would normally include the parties, the parties’ attorneys, the court reporter, and the person being deposed (if a non-party). A non-party deponent may elect to have his/her own attorney present. Generally, a deposition involves the attorney who initiated the deposition asking the person being deposed questions and his or her attorney has the opportunity to object, but there are few grounds to object to questions at depositions, which is why a deposition is such a power litigation tool.
Questions asked of a party or non-party in a family law case can cover a wide range of issues, including questions about child custody, alcohol or drug use, parenting styles, financial matters, wasting of marital assets, concealment of marital assets, use of marital funds during the marriage, adultery, affairs, conduct on social media, and any other matter that the attorney questioning the person believes may lead to information that is relevant to the issues at hand in that case, whether it be financial or otherwise.
An attorney may issue and serve a subpoena ducas tecum to require a party or witness to bring specific documents with them to the deposition, such as financial account statements or a child’s academic records.
A deposition provides a unique opportunity for an attorney to learn the scope of a party’s or witness’s knowledge or anticipated testimony in advance of a trial which can reduce the amount of time spent in the courtroom. The testimony given at a deposition is sworn testimony (given under oath) so it may be used to impeach a witness at trial. In other words, if a witness’s testimony in court is contrary to the testimony given at the deposition, the deposition can be introduced in order to argue that the witness is lying, biased, or overstating his or her knowledge. A deposition also provides the attorney with an opportunity to see how a party or witness might conduct themselves at trial.
Depositions can add to the expense of litigation since both parties are responsible for paying their respective attorneys and obtaining a copy of the deposition transcript. However, depositions can yield valuable information that may enhance your bargaining position, facilitate settlement negotiations, or help to prepare for trial.
Your family law attorney is in the best position to advise you whether a deposition can be beneficial in your case, based on your unique circumstances.
How do you prepare to give your deposition? Well, The following are suggestions by Findlaw.com to help you out :
- The Truth: If you do not tell the truth then that constitutes as perjury, which is a felony. Do not lie
- The question is important: Only when you hear a question clearly can you answer it. If you have trouble hearing what is asked, you can ask for them to repeat it.
- Understanding the question: Only Answer questions if you understand them. If you do not understand the question, then you can ask your attorney to clarify.
- Don’t forget to pause: Give yourself the opportunity to think before you talk. If an objection to a question is made, the pause is the perfect time for the judge to do so.
- Never guess: “I Don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer if you honestly do not know the answers to questions.
- Confer with a lawyer: You have the right to speak to your attorney at any time privately during the deposition. Don’t forget to use this right when the time is appropriate
- Extra information: Do not give more information than what the attorney is requesting. Once you have answered, be quiet.
- Never explain: You don’t have to justify your response. You only can speak of what you know. The attorney might have suggestions if you try to explain a statement you gave.
- Keep your calm: Even if you are pressed hard, do not lose your temper. That will only benefit the other side. Stop Arguing. Talk in exactly the same way you would talk to your attorney. Your attorney is there to make sure you aren’t pressed too hard, and that the questioning doesn’t go too far.
- Estimations: If you do not recall the exact time, or length of time, of an event, then state that you are giving an approximation of the time.