Courtroom Decorum in a Virtual World
When the courts closed early in the COVID-19 pandemic, many of them turned to virtual platforms, such as Zoom, to conduct family law cases. Rather than a solution to an immediate problem, virtual hearings may continue to be an option for years to come. That’s not only due to the continuing pandemic, but also because of their convenience. Virtual hearings save everyone the effort of driving to and from court, so judges are able to hear more cases in the same amount of time than they could pre-COVID, and attorneys can attend multiple hearings in different counties in a single day.
A downside of the move to virtual cases has been a drop in “good court behavior.” Because litigants are no longer appearing in a physical courtroom, all too often, decorum has slipped. The court has the same expectations about propriety, however, even though a case is handled remotely.
If you are appearing in virtual family court for your divorce, child custody, or child support case, following are some things to keep in mind:
Dress and act as if you are in a physical courtroom – Remember that your dress and behavior will be taken into consideration as the judge makes his or her decisions about you and your family. You always want to be seen in the best possible light. Be neat in your appearance and respectful of everyone in the virtual courtroom at all times.
Find someone to take care of your children and ensure they can’t overhear the proceedings – When family law hearings are conducted in person, minor children are not allowed in the courtroom, unless a child is testifying. As soon as their testimony is over, the child is required to leave the room. That’s because the courts have long sought to protect children of all ages from the emotional trauma of witnessing their parents’ legal hearings. This need to protect children is equally true for a virtual family law hearing. Finding someone who can watch over your children in a separate physical location is the best way to shield them. If it’s not possible for your children to leave your home during your hearing and they are old enough to understand and comply, close the door and instruct them not to enter the room.
Make sure your hearing won’t be interrupted – Be sure to attend your hearing in a private space where you are not likely to be interrupted by others. Having a relative, friend, or even worse, your child, drop in to retrieve something in the room, will take away your attention and disturb the proceedings.
Don’t invite others to sit off camera – Even though you may want the support, having another person in the room with you, off camera, may backfire. You don’t want to get emotional. Instead, you want to appear before the judge as articulate, calm and logical at all times.
Download the virtual app and know how to use it – Before your hearing, download the virtual app you will be using. Then, try it out several times with friends. Be sure to be on the same computer and in the same room you will be using for your hearing. Pay close attention to your microphone and lighting, so the court can clearly see your face and hear your testimony.
Contact me for assistance
If you are getting a divorce or facing child custody, child support or other family issues and want to talk with an experienced family law attorney, please contact my office for a consultation. I also hold a Master of Laws in Taxation, and I would be happy to provide expert legal advice.
Disclaimer: Law Office of Christina Sherman publishes articles about family law cases on its website for informational purposes only. The information contained herein may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice from Law Office of Christina Sherman or the individual author. This general information is not a substitute for legal advice on any subject matter. For advice pertaining to your specific case, please contact our office to schedule a consultation. No reader of this article should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this article without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction. Using this information or sending electronic mail to Law Office of Christina Sherman or its attorneys does not create an attorney-client relationship. Any statements pertaining to past results do not guarantee future results.