What is a Deposition in Family Court?
Depositions are an opportunity for attorneys to question the opposing party or witnesses who have knowledge of relevant information pertaining to a claim. In family law, the opposing party usually is the other parent or spouse. This person is known as the deponent.
A deposition usually takes place at one of the attorney’s offices. During this process, there is a court reporter present and sometimes a videographer. Both individuals serve to capture the dialogue from the deposition to revisit what the deponent said at a later date. All those procedures are under oath and carry the same authority as if the deponent were testifying in court.
The attorney who will be questioning the deponent should be prepared. This is an opportunity to get a better understanding of the key issues of the case and to gather information. Preparing a list of questions to ask the deponent is imperative.
What can be asked? There are very few limitations on what can be questioned during a deposition. The attorney who is asking questions can ask about several intrusive subjects, especially in family law cases when dealing with child custody or divorces. This is because it is crucial to ensure that when it comes time for trial, the court is aware of all relevant facts that will assist the ourt in making the correct decisions. If the opposing attorney feels there is a reason that the information being asked is not relevant or is privileged material, the attorney may object to the question. All objections will be revisited later.
A deponent is responsible for answering all questions truthfully and honestly. However, if they do not know the answer to a question, they may state that they do not know the answer. Depositions are part of the discovery process, so questions that may lead to admissible and relevant evidence are allowed. These questions may make you uncomfortable, especially in family law cases, but these questions are necessary to ensure a just outcome.
Divorce or Custody Deposition
What to expect? Depositions for a divorce case revolve around fault and financial questions. The fault falls into several categories in South Carolina, including:
- physical abuse;
- habitual drunkenness or drug use;
- physical abuse;
- desertion. This is rarely used as grounds for divorce since the parties must have lived separate without cohabitation. This is the same for a no-fault one-year continuous separation divorce.
Divorce depositions also involve inquiries about a person’s finances. This can include full disclosure of current assets and debts. A person’s income, employment status, businesses they own, and many other topics will be questioned.
Often times child custody disputes is an issue during a divorce. Depositions can involve questioning of spouses, friends, family members, counselors, school counselors, doctors, and many other individuals who can speak to one of the spouses capabilities as a parent.
Depositions for child custody involve questions relating to drug abuse, financial capabilities, involvement in the children’s lives, mental health, and many other sensitive subjects. Establishing facts is important in these cases. Because they are admissible in court, they may be used as evidence to make the determination of who is a more capable parent. It is important to make sure that they children are in the custody of the parent who is going to do the best job raising them.
How to prepare? During your deposition, make sure you tell the truth, understand what you are being asked, and do not volunteer too much information. Telling the truth prevents you from perjuring yourself, your answers will be consistent, and your credibility will not be in question. Even if the truth can hurt your case, it is the best approach when being questioned during a deposition.
What to say? It is important that you understand the question you are being asked. Depositions can have an extreme impact on the outcome of a case, especially in family law when all of the facts need to be determined. If you do not understand a question, there is nothing wrong with asking the attorney to clarify or repeat the question again.
Lastly, be honest, but do not volunteer more information than necessary to answer the question. If the question can be answered with a yes or no, that is all the information you should provide. The attorney will ask you to clarify or explain your answer if the yes or no answer does not suffice.
Depositions are an important part of a case. They help establish facts and identify points of contention. Because they are taken under oath and carry the same authority as if the deponent were testifying in court, they are an extremely useful method to utilize during a case.