Depositions in Child Custody and Divorce Cases

Depositions can be useful tools in child custody and divorce cases in Iowa and Illinois.

A Deposition is the process through which a person, called the Deponent, is asked questions under oath.  Generally speaking, in a custody or divorce case the Deponents will be the parties and possibly other people who have knowledge of things at issue in the case. A court reporter is present to make a record of the questions and answers.

The testimony given during a deposition is treated like testimony that is given in court.  As such, a Deponent tho is dishonest during a deposition can be prosecuted for perjury or otherwise punished by the court for such dishonesty.  As such, depositions should be treated with the same seriousness as a court appearance.

Deposition testimony has many purposes.  Often, a deposition is used to discover information that is not yet known.  Court is best used as an opportunity to present testimony and evidence to the judge so as to seek a favorable ruling, rather than as a time to try and learn information.  Indeed, those who try to treat trial as a time to learn, rather than a time to present, do not tend to have a favorable outcome.

It is also possible to use a deposition to learn information that otherwise could not be learned efficiently (or at all) through Interrogatories or Document Production.  That is especially true for complex issues that need to be addressed through a series of questions that begin with basic matters and process to more detailed questions based upon those answers.

Picking apart a party’s inaccurate version of events is another common purpose in taking a deposition.  By laying the groundwork for impeachment of an unfavorable witness during depositions, it is possible to save time at trial and avoid unpleasant surprises during trial.

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In many cases, taking depositions can help the case to settle.  An opposing party that is being unreasonable may realize after depositions that their position is untenable, and then settle the case on reasonable terms.  Reaching such a settlement after depositions can result in a case being settled months sooner than trial, and without the expense of a trial.

After the depositions, the attorneys can choose to request transcripts from the court reporter.  Much of the expense in a deposition is associated with the transcript preparation, rather than having the court reporter present for the deposition.  As such, it is common to request transcripts only when they end up being needed before court, rather than as a routine matter.  Since many cases settle before court (often helped by depositions), many deposition transcripts need not be obtained.

Not every divorce or custody case in Illinois or Iowa needs to have depositions.  The decision as to what discovery tools to employ is one that is best made in consultation with a person’s attorney.  Having a comprehensive plan to make the best use of each discovery tool will result in the best possible level of preparedness for trial, and the most efficient use of time (and money).