How To Prepare For Your Zoom Family Law Court Appearance
Even as a seasoned family law attorney, Zoom court appearances are a new element to consider since their widespread adoption only began during COVID-19. Now that I have Zoom hearings and other courtroom activities under my belt, I want to help my clients feel more comfortable with the new, more virtual practice of family law. It is beyond nerve-wracking for a litigant to go to “live” court; but learning your case is going to be handled virtually is potentially even scarier for some people.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, my firm had a set protocol for preparing clients for proceedings in family court, depositions, and mediations. The expectations of us as practitioners and of our clients as litigants were clear with regard to how to dress, how to behave, and how to prepare and present the case. Now that previously formal interactions have gone virtual in order to comply with social distancing guidelines, it may feel strange to log in for a serious proceeding from your home. The Law Office of Ilana R. Tanner educates clients on how a Zoom appearance will work and assures them it will it be just as effective as appearing in live court or at a live mediation.
Virtual Versus Live Court Appearances in Texas
The only real difference between a Zoom (or other type of video conferencing) hearing and an in-court hearing is not being physically in the same place at the same time. Otherwise, the process operates the same as it does at the courthouse. For a Zoom family law hearing, the attorneys, court staff, and judge can all participate by video and audio. Each litigant, however, depending upon the forum and substance of the proceeding, can be added telephonically, meaning they are dialed in for audio only or via video conference. While they would not be able to see us if added telephonically, they would still hear everything. The Judge swears them in so they are under oath and can participate by answering the court’s questions, just like if they were physically in the courtroom. The court controls the proceedings the same way it does in real life, by allowing the attorneys to present their cases and ultimately making a ruling. A court officer may also participate to ensure the proceedings are recorded.
All Zoom participants should behave as if they were actually sitting in court, including paying attention, answering when spoken to, and speaking clearly and respectfully so the recording captures your contributions. Just because it is not taking place in a courtroom does not mean things are less formal. The judge will manage and direct the proceedings, while the lawyers each wait to be called upon. Every participant addresses the judge as Your Honor and should dress professionally if using video.
One of the biggest changes in the family law attorney/client relationship as the legal industry has become more virtual is the lack of ability for clients and attorneys to discuss what’s going in in real time face-to-face. In Zoom court, it is bit different – lawyers can use the “chat” function to speak privately with a client, but only if the client is on via video; someone being dialed in will not have access to the Zoom “chat” feature, but the attorney and client can text via cell phone. That keeps attorney/client discussions as private as they should be to maintain privilege.
Top Tips for Zoom Court
- Mute your phone, unmuting only when you are called upon to speak. Mute sounds from all other applications and/or close all other programs on your computer.
- Avoid using a mobile device if possible because the performance is inferior.
- Avoid using battery power only and plug into a good power source while in a Zoom meeting.
- Avoid distracting real or virtual backgrounds.
- Avoid poor camera positioning (if possible). Try to frame yourself so you take up most of the screen, at eye level.
- Avoid using WiFi, if possible; Internet connection via a hard-wire Ethernet cable will always be faster and more reliable than WiFi.
- Avoid running any unnecessary applications to conserve your computer’s processing power
- For home networks, if possible, avoid sharing your Internet service with others during the session.
Austin, Texas Family Law Attorney
Zoom hearings are new normal for Texas family law practitioners. Both attorneys and clients alike should practice using Zoom before court if possible. If you or someone you care about has been affected by a divorce, child custody matter, or other family law issue, the Austin family lawyer at The Law Office of Ilana R. Tanner is ready and able to help you, so contact us today.