My Spouse's Attorney Is Taking My Deposition - What Should I Expect?
Aimed at the pro se (self-represented) spouse in Florida concerning a Florida case, this guide provides some basics. It is not intended as an exhaustive guide, nor can it substitute for having an attorney representing you at your deposition, which you should do if at all possible.
What is a deposition?Essentially, a deposition is a means by which an attorney can ask a witness questions in a formal setting, with the answers being recorded. You are put under oath and must swear or affirm that you are telling the truth. A deposition can be done on video if the proper procedures are followed. Most depositions, though, are not done on video and are instead recorded by a court reporter. The transcript of the deposition must be ordered; it is not automatically transcribed. The court reporter typically charges a fee for appearing for the deposition, and a separate fee to transcribe the deposition, with the fee depending on the duration of the deposition and the length of the transcript.
Why are they taking my deposition?Usually, because they want to obtain information from you that will either enhance their case or to find out whether you know about anything that may prove detrimental to their case. Sometimes, unfortunately, depositions are also used to put pressure on a witness. In other cases, depositions are used to obtain a witnesses' version of the events so that at a trial or hearing there is less likelihood of a witness telling a different version of the events.
What will I be asked at a deposition?It very much depends on the specific facts and circumstances of your particular case. Is it a divorce case without any children but with many assets and liabilities? Then the questions will likely focus on assets and liabilities. Is this a paternity case involving allegations of drug use? Then you can reasonably assume that many of the questions will cover that issue. It is a modification case? Then you can likely anticipate that questions surrounding the time-sharing factors will be asked.
If you are at all concerned that you may be asked a question that may expose a criminal act, then you need to speak to a criminal attorney beforehand.
If you are at all concerned that you may be asked a question about how you handled your taxes that might get you into trouble with the IRS, then you need to speak to a tax attorney beforehand.
Seeing a theme here? If you have any concerns about questions of a specific topic, you should speak to an attorney versed in that area beforehand.
Deposition questions are broad by nature. Objections can be made, but it's rare to be able to refuse to answer a question. If you are in a contentious lawsuit with an experienced attorney on the other side, you should think twice about your inability to afford representation because you will likely be outmatched and may not understand the strategy involved.
What happens with the deposition transcript?If the deposition transcript is ordered, it may be used in whole or in part at a hearing or trial in your case. It can be used to impeach you, meaning refuting your answer at a trial with your answer at the deposition if they don't match. It can also be used to question your answers. For example, if you answered a question during the deposition by saying, "I don't know" but at the trial you suddenly remember, that may be seen by the judge or magistrate as suspicious. Deposition transcripts could also be reviewed and possibly used in other cases, though this is beyond the scope of this basic guide.