A deposition, or examination before trial, is a pre-trial legal procedure in a lawsuit. The attorney for one party questions the other party, or a non-party witness, under oath regarding issues relevant to the case. All questions and answers and other words spoken in the deposition room are recorded by a stenographer on a stenographic machine and transcribed into a written document (the “transcript.”)
In a divorce action, a deposition is often used to ascertain information to identify and evaluate the marital assets and liabilities. This procedure is conducted before trial to assist the parties and their attorneys in settlement negotiations and, if settlement negotiations are not successful, to prepare for trial.
The attorney who is questioning a party or a witness attempts to learn everything he or she can about the case in an effort to support the claims being made by his or her client. The party being questioned (deposed) is accompanied by his or her own attorney to protect that party’s legal rights. Court rules require depositions to be conducted with civility.
Although your attorney will discuss the particulars of any depositions in your case before they occur, there are some general rules governing a witness’ conduct at a deposition:.
- Tell the truth. You are under oath and subject to the penalties of perjury.
- Take your time and think about your answer before you state it.
- Do not guess. If you do not know the answer to a question, say that you do not know. If you do not understand a question, ask that it be rephrased or explained to you.
- Do not lose your temper.
- Do not speak sarcastically or tell any jokes. Tones of voice are not reflected by the written words of a transcript.
If your attorney objects to a question or directs you not to answer a question, stop talking and do not answer the question until you receive further instructions.
A deposition is not conducted in every divorce action. The benefits, and risks, of conducting depositions in your case will be discussed with you before the decision of whether to do so is made.