Mel Gibson is in the hot seat.
For the first time since their bitter break-up, the actor was forced to show up and sit face-to-face at a Los Angeles law office with his estranged girlfriend, Oskana Grigorieva, reports "Early Show" news anchor Erica Hill.
The two are embroiled in a bitter custody battle over their 1-year-old daughter. But the legal fight doesn't end there.
Grigorieva arrived alone to her lawyer's office for a long day of testimony, while Mel Gibson avoided the cameras. It was finally his turn to answer questions in his first deposition over custody of their daughter, Lucia. The couple split up in April. Since then, secretly recorded tapes have been made public of what appears to be Gibson making violent threats against Grigorieva.
In one tape, a voice, allegedly Gibson's, can be heard saying, "You need a ******* bat in the side of head. How about that?"
While Oksana has been deposed on four occasions, Gibson has dodged the grilling -- until now.
CBS News Legal Analyst Jim Moret says, "I think Mel Gibson is very uncomfortable sitting in that law office, because he does not want to be there."
So what's at stake here? Hill says custody, support and visitation of Lucia.
Moret explained, "The judge has to determine whether Mel Gibson is potentially a threat to this child. ... Oksana may be claiming that Mel is unstable and she can't trust him with a child."
Gibson still may face charges of domestic violence. And Grigorieva is also under investigation, for extortion in connection with the release of those explosive tapes.
In the tapes, a voice that allegedly belongs to Gibson, can be heard saying, "So that's why I'm so ******* angry. Because I don't have any friends. The career is over."
Gibson's career continued its downward spiral last month when a planned cameo in "The Hangover 2" was abruptly cancelled. In a statement, the director, Todd Phillips, said Gibson "did not ultimately have the full support of my entire cast and crew."
But losing a role cannot compare to losing custody of his child. Grigorieva is said to be pleased with the day's events. In a statement to CBS News, her lawyer, Alan Shifman, said, "This is a parent issue. She wants to make sure her child is safe."
Hill added the day was quite long for Gibson and Grigorieva. The deposition lasted nine and a half hours.
But what's really going on at this stage?
On "The Early Show," CBS News Legal Analyst Jack Ford explained, "This is not the trial. It's a lead-up to the trial. It's an exchange of information. It's called the discovery process. And what it means is each side has to turn over to the other all the information that they have. If they've got documents, the other side gets to see them. It's not trial by surprise anymore. And sometimes, the most important aspect of this is where the major players (are) put under oath and asked a whole series of questions.
"And it's wide-ranging. Nine hours --somebody might say, 'How could they possibly be talking for nine hours?' Bottom line: In a deposition, you're not as circumscribed in your testimony as you would be in a trial. It's information that may well lead to information to be admissible at trial. It's a wide-ranging conversation. Not surprising at all for each side to walk out and say, 'We did great." '
"Early Show" co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez wondered, "It was Mel Gibson's turn to answer questions. Why was she there? Does she have to be there?"
Ford replied, "She doesn't have to be there, but she has a right to be there. If you're the parties to litigation, and it's not often the parties will show up, you have a right to be there when somebody else is being questioned. Here, I'm sure, she's there with a note pad in front of her. I'm sure her lawyer said to her, 'Look, I don't want reactions from you. I don't want you rolling your eyes or making noises or muttering under your breath, but I do want you to take notes. And if he says something you think we have something different about, jot it down, we'll talk. When we take breaks, I want to go over with you what he's saying. Does he have something where you can disagree with that in some fashion? Is there a witness out there we can bring in?' You get to participate."
He continued, "But it's not like television. She's not going to stand up and throw a glass of water at him and yell at him, 'You're a liar,' and back-and-forth. That's great drama. Sometimes that happens, but usually, it's much more controlled than that."
Rodriguez pointed out that, in a court case, lawyers can bring up anything. Does Mel Gibson have to answer everything in a deposition?
Ford responded, "Here's what happens, usually: An attorney might have an objection to a question. Generally speaking, what they do is they say, 'Objection,' and note for the record why, and then the person goes ahead and answers it. Because, down the road, a judge will decide. However, we know that there is an investigation going on against both of them. So they still have a Fifth Amendment right not to answer. So, I've got to believe that if Mel Gibson was asked questions about, 'Did you, in fact, knock her teeth out in a fight?' that his lawyer would say, 'I'm advising my client not to answer those questions until we find out what's going on with any criminal investigations here."
So, will the case likely settle?
Ford said, "Generally, most cases do settle. People should know this. Overwhelming number of cases eventually settle. Sometimes, the lawyers (are) actually acting as a psychologist and dealing with the psyche of your client. Sometimes, after the client has a chance to say everything they want to say, get it all out there, sometimes they're more inclined to listen to your when you say to them, 'OK, we've all done that. We know what they have to say. They know what we have to say. You've gotten a chance to tell your story, let's sit down now and see if we can work this out in some fashion.' Sometimes, once this happens, it moves it in the direction towards settlement."
Rodriguez added, "We'll see how far this one goes."
for more features.