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What Is a Deposition (and how is it applicable to your divorce or family law matter)?

Deposition

A deposition for a divorce in Kansas or a dissolution of marriage (in Missouri) or another kind of family law case such as a paternity case or a custody modification is similar to court testimony, but it is held outside of court. Typically, it is held with a court reporter to allow the opposing lawyer to ask questions that the other party answers. The Court reporter records the questions and answers to make a record to use for future court proceedings. The person who answers questions (also called the deponent) takes an oath to swear to tell the truth. This means, similar to court testimony, that lying in a deposition could subject you to criminal obligations including perjury.

Most people who face being deposed feel scared or uneasy. However, your family law or divorce attorney should be able to describe the process and prepare you for your deposition such that your concerns about the process will be minimized. It is important that you are prepared to understand the key components of your case, common tricks that the opposing lawyer may attempt to get you to misspeak, as well as ensuring that you are completing a clear and accurate record of your testimony. In some cases, depositions become invaluable to help resolve the case as the other lawyer is able to obtain needed information.

For some lawyers, the purpose of taking a deposition is to allow him or her to assess how a witness, you or someone in support of your case, may be able to perform in court and/or articulate various key points to your case. Under both, Missouri and Kansas law, a lawyer is able to ask the same or similar questions in a deposition that he or she then asks during a court room hearing or trial.

What is Unique about a Deposition Compared with Court or Trial Testimony?

The most obvious difference is that court room testimony is conducted in a court of law. The judge is present and will rule on objections and other issues that may be raised by the attorneys. For depositions, they are usually conducted in a meeting or conference room at a law office or some other location agreed upon by the lawyers. The deposition takes place without the judge being in attendance. Generally, attorneys representing both parties are present, with generally the opposing counsel asking the other party questions and the deponent’s legal counsel in attendance to help make objections and create an accurate record of the proceedings.

In both, Kansas and Missouri, discovery rules are broad which allows the questioning lawyer to get into quite a bit of detail. Generally relevant questions are any questions that may lead to the discovery of admissible information. Obviously, by definition this could be almost anything if you are talking about a party’s finances., their fitness as a parent, their future financial needs, among other relevant topics. In some circumstances, even questions that would not be permitted in a trial or court hearing are permissible for depositions.

In some depositions, the deponent may be required to produce or bring certain designated documents with him or her to the deposition. The items requested will be supplied in advance.

What is the Deposition Process?

During a deposition, generally, each party and their respective lawyer is present. Generally the court reporter is present as well. Questions will be asked and the deponent will be expected to answer the questions. The deponent generally has an opportunity to review his or her transcript following the deposition to ensure accuracy;.

What Should You Do to Prepare for your Deposition?

  •  Discuss with your attorney how much time you should set aside to attend the deposition. In some complicated cases, your deposition may last several hours or all day. Make sure you have made adequate child care or other arrangements to attend for the entirety of your deposition period.
  • Carefully review the “Notice of Deposition” with your attorney to ensure that you know where to be, the date of your deposition and the time that you should arrive, as well as if you are expected to bring any documents or materials with you.
  • Your attorney should plan to spend plenty of time preparing you for your deposition. This includes discussing your case themes, focus, preparing to respond to any points of anticipated criticism from the opposing party, as well as making sure you understand how the deposition is anticipated to be conducted.
  • What Happens When the Other Party is the Deponent?
  • In preparing for the opposing party’s deposition, you should actively engage with your divorce counsel or family law attorney to outline key components of your case, facts or information you want to establish and any defenses to anticipated criticism of your behavior or case.
  • If you have documents or exhibits that you want your attorney to use in taking the other party’s deposition, provide them to your lawyer with plenty of time for him or her to review them. If appropriate, provide corresponding questions or factual history with any documents supplied.
  • Discuss with your attorney what is expected of your behavior in observing the opposing party’s deposition. Generally it will involve sitting quietly, observing and passing notes if necessary.
  • In a deposition, the final transcript of the process is the goal for everyone in the room. Make sure that you don’t inappropriately speak up or say or do anything that could be documented on an official record that results in harm to your case and/or legal position.

Finally, in many cases, a deposition is an opportunity to work toward a negotiated settlement. When the needed and relevant facts are fully “on the table” negotiations can move forward.

A deposition is often a valuable tool for your divorce or family law case in Kansas or Missouri. If you need assistance with taking a deposition or having legal counsel assist you in a case where you anticipate having your deposition taken, call Pingel Family Law today so we can assist you in taking the right steps to succeed in your case process. Call us at (816) 208-8130.

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