One tool lawyers use to find out information for a trial or settlement negotiations is a deposition. This is somewhat like interviewing a person who could have relevant information about the case at hand. The interview is completed under oath, with a lawyer asking questions, the person answering and the court reporter documenting all of it.
If you’re facing a deposition in your family law case, it’s only natural to have some questions. Check out some common queries and answers about this process below.
Where do depositions take place?
A deposition can happen anywhere. It is often done in the office of the lawyer who scheduled it.
I received a subpoena for my deposition—what should I do?
A subpoena is an official command from the court to show up at a specific place at a set time and date and is not something you can simply ignore. Usually, if you’re a party in the case, your lawyer and the other lawyer will coordinate so the deposition is scheduled at a time everyone can attend. Witnesses and other third parties may have to contact the attorney who issued the subpoena for a new date and time if the one they received is not possible.
Consider the deposition akin to going to court. Listen closely to each question and give honest answers to the best of your ability. Keep in mind that every single thing you say is recorded and that you are testifying under oath. If you cannot remember or do not know an answer, say so. Do not try to guess. Sometimes, a deposition is used in court, and if you give different answers, it may look as if you are being deceptive.
Is my lawyer allowed at my deposition?
You can bring your attorney to your deposition, as you have the right to representation there. Bear in mind that the party who set up the deposition will not have to pay your lawyer fees.
Do I have to answer all the questions?
In a deposition, you have to answer questions even if you do not want to. Unlike in court, your lawyer cannot object to a question and have a judge decide whether that question is allowed. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. Confidential conversations between you and your attorney are still covered by attorney-client privilege. You also can assert your constitutional right to not answer a question that could make you liable for a crime, also popularly known as “pleading the Fifth.” If your lawyer and the other party’s lawyer cannot decide whether you should have to answer a question, a recess may be called so they can speak to a judge about whether you need to answer or not.
During your deposition, you may wonder why a certain question is relevant to your family law case. Depositions are a part of the discovery process, so questions that could lead to admissible and relevant evidence are allowed, even if those questions make you uncomfortable.
Should I waive the reading and signing of the transcript?
Once the court reporter transcribes the deposition, you have the right to review it for accuracy, which is also known as “reading and signing.” This is your chance to confirm the court reporter heard you and wrote down just what you said, but you cannot change your testimony’s substance. This is sworn testimony and it is important that your deposition is accurate, so it is in your best interest it to review it.
Dealing with a deposition on your own can be intimidating, so if you do not yet have a family law attorney on your side, now is the time to get one. You’ll feel more confident and your rights will be better protected with experienced legal counsel.