What Can I Expect in a Family Law Deposition?

One of the most stressful parts of any family law-related proceeding is a deposition, which is the sworn submission of evidence into a lawsuit. The deposed individual swears under oath to the accuracy and truthfulness of his or her answers to the questions posed by the opposite side of the case. Depositions often are uncomfortable, stressful, and time-consuming. If you are expecting a deposition in the future for any family law-related matter, such as divorce or a child custody agreement, it’s a good idea to know what to expect from the process.

California Deposition Laws

Most people want to know how long a deposition will take to complete. There is no firm answer to this question, because different lawsuits and legal matters vary in their complexity. More complicated divorces and other family law proceedings will naturally take longer, because the attorneys will need to cover much more ground in their respective depositions. The California Code of Civil Procedure acknowledges the stress that depositions can cause and has enacted a seven-hour time limit for family law deposition sessions.

The seven-hour time limit is flexible for some matters. If one party involved in a family law case can prove to the judge that the case falls outside the norm, or it is extraordinarily complex, the judge may grant an extension. The seven-hour time limit also does not include breaks. The attorney from each side has the right to seven hours of pure questions and answers. They may choose to divide this over a period of several days, or there may be multiple deposition sessions at different intervals in the case proceedings.

Preparing for Your Deposition

The court will notify you of the date and time of your deposition, but there is no end time listed because it is impossible to predict how long a session will last. You and your attorney will have ample time to prepare. Your attorney will prepare you for the deposition by asking questions that the other attorney is likely to ask so you can properly frame your answers in an honest, concise way that strengthens your position.

Your attorney will likely coach you on your demeanor, attitude, and word choice for the deposition, because all of these things can impact your case. This is especially true for video recorded depositions, which are increasingly common due to the convenience and accessibility of video recording devices. Many judges today prefer to hear a witness’s answers in a way that’s more natural than reading recorded answers. Ultimately, a deposition is a way for the opposing side to get detailed information about the case with little to no risk. In fact, it may be in your best interest to request a video recording when it is your turn to depose the other side. Much like applying for a time extension beyond the seven-hour limit, you must provide the judge with a convincing reason to record your depositions.

How Seriously Should I Take My Deposition?

A deposition is essentially the exact same thing as sworn testimony offered in court. The deposed individual swears under oath to the truthfulness of his or her answers, so lying during a deposition can come back to damage you. While it’s important to avoid offering any information that may weaken your position in the case, it is imperative to be truthful throughout the entire process, even if this comes at a cost to your own position. A deposition doesn’t have to be as stressful as it may seem. A good attorney will notify you well in advance of the date and time of your deposition and arrange for as much preparation as possible.