While they are not as frequent as in other areas of the law, as a New Jersey Divorce Attorney I have handled many depositions throughout my career. Typically, these are complex New Jersey divorce cases involving many assets, allegations of “hidden” assets and custody, to name a few. Only an experienced New Jersey Divorce Lawyer knows when and how to handle a deposition. Let’s explore.
What is a Deposition?
A deposition is testimony of a witness (or potential witness) that is transcribed and reduced to writing for examination by respective counsel. Typically, a deposition happens at one of the layers office (or a neutral location). It is part of the discovery process of a New Jersey Divorce. The deposition serves two essential purposes: 1. To “discover more facts about the case, and; B. to be used at trial to discount the witnesses credibility if their testimony was not consistent.
Should I even take the deposition?
In my opinion, deciding whether or not to take the deposition initially is the most important question that all attorneys should ask themselves. While most often it is a wise decision to take the deposition, it is imperative that you only take a deposition if you think it will help you to win your case. Therefore, I recommend asking yourself a few questions to see if taking the deposition is right for the particular case. These include determining the purpose of the deposition and your goals and objectives from taking the deposition.
When should I serve my deposition notice to the opposing party?
Before serving the opposing party with your deposition notice, you need to make sure that you are entitled to control when the first deposition will take place. This concept, known as priority, is important to be familiar with because as a practitioner you need to know if you have priority, and if you do, if you want to take advantage of having it.
What methods of discovery should I use?
Whenever there are ample resources at one’s fingertips, it is often the case that they are not all taken advantage of. This idea applies to depositions as well, especially when it comes to the discovery phase. There are countless discovery devices that lawyers should take advantage of using, like inspection of documents, interrogatories, and notices to admit. However, if you do decide to use any of these helpful tools, it is vital that you use them correctly.
Should I take advantage of help from experts?
Experts are useful at all stages of a case, not just at trial. In the deposition stage, an expert might be useful if you need help understanding financial issues like tax returns. If one of the distributable assets involved in the divorce process were a company, it would also be important to use an expert to help you understand the different types of companies and each of their values. Furthermore, if custody is being contested, the use of a social worker or psychologist might be helpful early on to better understand reports.
The reason it is so important to involve experts early on is so that you are not thrown a curve ball at trial. Taking advantage of expert opinions will help you be more confident and efficient if your case does go to trial. It is also imperative to check out an expert before using his or her opinions to further your case. If your client suggests using his or her personal accountant or financial advisor, it might be because that expert will be biased toward your client. Checking out the expert before hand is therefore key to a successful, unbiased case.
How should I prepare for the deposition?
The best advice regarding preparation of a deposition is do not procrastinate. Waiting for the last minute leads to cramming, which usually does not produce the most effective end result. From the moment you meet your client, you should be preparing every step of the way. Take your first impressions of your client and use them to strengthen your case. Similarly, if you find that something needs to be changed with your client, recognize that from the start so you can fix it before the case progresses.
Moreover, it is important to develop your case theme. What is the case really about? Being able to identify the case theme is extremely significant because it will help you to better analyze aspects of the case along the way. Yet the most important aspect of preparation, in my opinion, is talking with your client on a regular basis. Clear, concise communication is the key ingredient to a successful deposition.
If you or a loved one faces a complex New Jersey Divorce, please contact my office for experienced guidance and assistance.