Processing Divorce in Court during COVID… On Zoom?
How do they hear things differently?
How is the feeling different – better or worse?
And is the judge’s ruling in a divorce case as effective from afar?
The Difference Is Big
It’s one thing to stand in the courtroom in front of a judge wearing a robe with deputies standing nearby. The formal and reserved ambience of the courtroom does not exist in a virtual experience.
From the safety of home, we are more relaxed. When a judge admonishes a client for improper behavior in a virtual hearing, is it perceived as severely?
Remote Cases Affect All Parties
From a lawyer’s perspective, preparing for an evidentiary hearing and having to do a trial by Zoom is also different. We call witnesses, and they respond from their own homes or offices.
Are they reading information they would not otherwise be able to refer to if in person?
Are they texting a friend or the Jameson Law firm for help?
Body Language Is Impossible to Read in Remote Cases
Often in family court, judges will make comments from the bench to address the parties, to send a message. I wonder, is that message as powerful while the party is sitting in an easy chair in his living room, listening without really being present?
Consider this Case Study
The judge looked at both parties on the virtual hearing and said, “You have to choose your battles. This is not an emergency. Nobody is going anywhere right now, so come back to me if there really is an urgency.”
The co-parents were arguing about what was essentially an irrelevant point. The judge tried to emphasize this point sternly, but I have to say, I don’t think the point sticks as much with clients when we’re relegated to video hearings.
Isn’t It Good to Revere the Judge?
You stand, out of respect for the judge, and wait for him or her to respond to your motion. And what the judge says, goes.
Let’s Get Serious
I’m convinced that while the order stands and is as effective and imperative during this time as any other time, the parties don’t feel the gravity of the situation in the same way.
There is one upside to this new normal, though. In divorce cases where abuse or violence is present, not having to show up in the same physical space as your abuser is a relief for clients seeking freedom and safety from domestic abuse.
In these situations, staying in your own home while the abuser remains in another space is a gift for the victim. However, I’m not sure the abuser receives the severity of the proceedings when the judge is on a screen.
Does the Location of Your Divorce Case Matter?
There are non-court-based options for divorce, of course, like Collaborative Divorce or Mediation – which might be better alternatives.
If you’re looking for a divorce lawyer at this time, you might want to consider talking with a lawyer who is familiar with and practices both the court-based, litigation model and is specially trained as a mediator or Collaborative attorney – someone like me!
After all, is it worth litigating if you’re not appearing in front of a judge?