Having your deposition taken may seem a bit threatening at first, but you’ll find yourself a lot more relaxed and in control if you know what to expect. Here is what you need to know.
A deposition is a routine procedure attorneys use for gathering facts about a case. It is also a chance for both attorneys to watch what you say and how you say it to determine whether you will be a believable witness.
What Happens at a Deposition?
At the deposition, you’ll be giving testimony under oath. You’ll be asked detailed questions about your case and your answers will be recorded in a booklet form by a court reporter.
The record of this process forms a document called a deposition transcript that will be sent to attorneys representing both sides. Another copy will be sent to the court for the judge to review at the time of the hearing or trial.
Portions of the depositions may be read aloud in court, especially when the opposing attorney is trying to show contradictions between your deposition and your testimony in court. This is what lawyers call impeaching the witness.
What is the Purpose of a Deposition?
Information: A deposition is a routine procedure attorneys use for gathering facts about a case. It is an attorney’s ethical responsibility to learn all the facts about a case and a deposition is one method they use. Just as the opposing attorney will be asking you many questions, your own attorney may be questioning witnesses of the other side. In this way, much of the information about a case is available to both sides.
Credibility: The deposition is a chance for both attorneys to watch what you say and how you say it. This helps them determine whether you will be a believable witness.
Admissions: The deposition gives the opposing attorney a chance to look through your testimony for admissions – statements and facts that might weaken your own case and inadvertently strengthen the opposing party’s case. These admissions may later be brought out in court, along with any contradictory statements you might make.
Who Will Be There?
Of course, you will be there in your role as deponent, the person answering questions about the case. At least three other people will be in the room where the deposition will be taken:
- your own attorney, who will be there to see that your rights are protected;
- the opposing attorney, who will ask the questions and who is there to learn as much as possible to benefit his or her own client;
- the court reporter, who will administer the oath and make a written document of your statement. It is possible for others to be present. If so, your attorney will let you know.
Your deposition will probably be taken in a lawyer’s office. An empty courtroom may also be used if it is the most convenient meeting place for everyone.
What Do I Have to Do Before and During a Deposition?
Dress: Dress as neat and careful as you would for a business meeting. Avoid wearing anything flashy or uncomfortable. If you are uncertain about what to wear, ask your attorney for help.
Attitude: Be polite to everyone but not overly friendly. Try to relax but don’t get too relaxed. You’ll need to be attentive to the proceedings. If you find that you are getting too tired to listen and respond carefully, ask for a break.
Responsibilities: You have three main responsibilities:
- listen carefully;
- be sure you understand what is being asked of you;
- answer carefully.
You’ll answer the questions a lot more easily if you don’t let yourself feel pressured and if you take your time. Remember that while you must tell the truth, you don’t have to know the answer to every question, nor are you expected to know all the facts of the case. It is always okay to say that you don’t know the answer to a question if you truly do not know the answer.
A good California divorce attorney will prepare you for a deposition well in advance of it occurring. Contact Bohm Wildish & Matsen today if you need assistance in preparing for a deposition in your divorce case.