A deposition is one of the tools many lawyers use to gather facts about a case. Depositions are where testimony is taken under oath instead of, or in addition to, written discovery requests. Normally, written discovery requests are sufficient to get the information necessary to try family law matters. It is usually cheaper and easier for the client to serve written discovery requests. However, depending on the complexity and specific facts of your case, depositions can be a very useful tool in preparing for litigation.
Depositions are usually held in an attorney’s office. Sometimes you will be required to bring specific documents with you to the deposition. You will be notified if you are required to bring documents. Generally, they are the same documents previously requested in written discovery. A court reporter is present, as well as the attorney taking the deposition, the opposing party, if he or she so chooses, your attorney, and you. The court reporter will place you under oath meaning that you must tell the truth, the same as if you were testifying before a judge. The attorney conducting the deposition will ask questions. You are required to answer all of them honestly.
Your attorney can object to certain questions. However, you must still answer unless your attorney tells you otherwise. This is confusing to many clients. In court, if an attorney objects the judge makes a ruling as to whether the client must answer or not. In contrast, in depositions, your attorney can object, but you must still answer. The reason that your attorney objects is to preserve the objection for trial. This is a technical part of lawyering that most clients have trouble with. Many wonder, “if they can’t use it in court, why do I have to answer?” It is the same as questions asked in written discovery. The parties must answer all written discovery questions truthfully, under oath, whether or not the information provided is going to be admissible in court. In the written responses we turn over to opposing counsel, we include a very broad objection clause in the preamble to your responses that operate the same way your attorney’s objection in a deposition does. There are limited circumstances where you can refuse to answer, including your Fifth (5th) Amendment right against self-incrimination. Because adultery is still a crime in Alabama, you may plead the 5th Amendment if answering would open you up to criminal liability.
Depositions can be tough to get through because the opposing party is sitting in the room with you while you are answering these questions, making it an uncomfortable experience. You must mentally prepare yourself to give short, concise, truthful answers, no matter how uncomfortable you may be. This is good preparation for trial, as the opposing party will also be in the courtroom. Just as you should in a trial setting, you must try to be as calm, cool, and collected as you can be throughout a deposition.
The attorney conducting the deposition may attempt to push your buttons and make you angry in the hopes of getting more information from you. Do not allow yourself to be bullied into reacting poorly in a deposition. If you need a break, ask for one. Your attorney may also request one if they see that you are having trouble. You can ask your attorney questions, but your attorney cannot give your answers for you. Your attorney is there for support and to preserve the right to object at trial. We understand how difficult depositions can be on clients and strive to prepare them to the best of our ability prior to the deposition.
Hopefully, this post has removed some of the mystery from the deposition process. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below or contact our office at (334) 373-2981.