The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting public health precautions have altered every aspect of our lives. Unfortunately, that includes the ability to appear live in court. For families dealing with issues like divorce, separation, child custody, child support, or other complex family problems, this has proven to be a major setback.
Thankfully, courts have adjusted by switching to virtual hearing formats, whereby judges, family law attorneys, and other court personnel appear remotely via digital platforms like Zoom and WebEx.
Of course, just because you are appearing from home does not mean you should act as though you are not present in a courtroom setting. Here are some dos and don’ts for virtual best practices, whether you are attending virtual mediation or appearing before a judge.
DO Act as Though You Are in a Courtroom
It does not matter if you are attending court from home; you need to behave as though you are in a courtroom. This means dressing appropriately (business attire) and not wearing PJs. You must take the proceedings seriously, addressing the judge as “Judge” or “Your Honor” and making sure that you do not speak out of turn.
In fact, it is best to mute your microphone at times when you are not speaking. When you are called upon, speak clearly and try not to get frustrated if you are asked to speak up or repeat something. You want your testimony to be heard.
Avoid using foul language or behaving inappropriately, as you can still be held in contempt, and don’t do anything that you would not do in a courtroom. For example, it is okay to drink water, but do not eat a bowl of cereal or a sandwich on camera.
DO Eliminate Distractions
Distractions like children, dogs, and TV/stereo noise are not acceptable in virtual court sessions; neither are family members entering the proceedings. Choose a location in your home where you can close and lock the door to eliminate distractions that could disrupt proceedings.
DON’T Leave Inappropriate Personal Settings in Place
In preparation to appear before a judge, make sure to enter your full name as it should appear on-screen (no nicknames) and remove any backgrounds or filters that could be disruptive. You should also take the time to look at your own image and make sure the background (the room behind you) does not contain anything unprofessional or inappropriate.
DON’T Leave the Proceedings Without Warning
When you are using video conferencing tools, there is a tendency to behave as though you are at home (because you are). However, this does not mean you can get up and leave to go to the bathroom or grab a snack. You would not be able to do these things if you were in a real-world courtroom, so do not expect to get away with them in virtual court.
Whether you are attending court virtually to settle visitation, alimony, or other family matters, you want to be sure that you follow best practices to avoid making the wrong impression or winding up in contempt of court.
A qualified and diverse law firm like Bleecker Family Law can help to guide you through the process. Contact the experienced attorneys at Bleecker Family Law today to request a consultation and to learn more about our services.