The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted our lives. And we’re not talking about finances. Personal relationships have taken a massive blow thanks to months of being together inside the house. While we spend less time with friends and co-workers, we also spent more time with our significant others. This worked for some as couples grow closer and had a better appreciation of what they mean to each other. For others, the lockdown drove them further apart as they struggle with having to deal with someone who hasn’t been the person they need during this time.
The pandemic and lockdown are tests for married couples. Others are brought closer by it while others are driven further apart. Some couples need to pursue individual pursuits to thrive in a marriage. Without these opportunities because of the lockdown, the stress and pressure of health and financial fears dampen the relationship. While others saw the lockdown as an opportunity to reconnect, others see it as being in prison with someone you abhor.
But does that mean that the divorce rate is higher during the lockdown? On the contrary, couples are divorcing less because of the fear that a legal separation may further wreak havoc on their finances. But for those already in the middle of divorce proceedings, they find themselves in unfamiliar territory. They suddenly have to negotiate with their ex-spouses via Zoom. Imagine how disconcerting that is for everyone—the lawyers, the judges, and the ex-couples.
How to Go About a Divorce Proceeding via Teleconference
For courts that allowed for a divorce process to proceed, this means that for the most part, court hearings will happen via teleconference. Zoom is the most popular platform for this. Lawyers are not sure what to expect during a court hearing, so your attorney will ask the virtual presence of stenographic court reporters to document what was agreed upon during the hearings and negotiations. The thing about court reporters is that they have a neutral position on the case, so clients can trust that their transcripts and records of what happened are factual.
These transcripts can be used in courts, too. This is why it’s important to have court-appointed reporters during any legal proceedings. It is for the protection of both the clients.
Legal proceedings via Zoom will not be the same as physical hearings, of course. There are many elements and factors to why these could be disrupted. Both sides of the divorce proceedings have to be patient when it comes to scheduling the teleconference and many other disruptions. For example, both sides have to provide the judge with the documents beforehand. That reduces the elements of surprise, especially in divorce proceedings where both parties are contesting the reasons, division of properties, custody, etc.
But those are just some of the disadvantages of remote hearings. Bad connection and bad audio/video are being experienced by remote workers, too. These are not exclusive to virtual court hearings. Soon, there will be new apps, tools, and technology to address these issues.
The Benefits of Remote Court Hearings to Litigants
The ex-spouses, of course, can find a silver lining in a remote court hearing. Without needing to be in the same room as their exes, they are calmer and more relaxed. Those in very abusive relationships will often cower at the sight of their abusers. Remote hearings will make them feel safer. They will also be able to defend themselves more before the judge.
Remote hearings are time-savers, too. Instead of wasting time waiting in court for the judge to finish hearing another case, the litigants need only to sign in on Zoom or Google Meet at the appointed time. This way, they can attend to other important things while they wait for the judge to finish with the other cases.
For families with small children, remote hearings can be beneficial, too. They can stay in the house and take care of their kids while attending a divorce proceeding with their headphones. Or, if the talk becomes too sensitive, they can seclude themselves in a room or even their car and attend the court hearing from there.
Is remote hearing here to stay for divorces? It might work for couples who amicably decided to separate. For those who will have trouble with the division of properties and custody of children, remote hearings may not be the perfect avenue to thresh out the details of these issues. For now, couples who decide to go through with their divorce can rest easy knowing that there are ways for this to happen for those who are not comfortable appearing in court.