What to Expect: Telephonic and Video Hearings During the COVID-19 Crisis

The COVID-19 crisis has obviously altered many aspects of our lives, and that extends to court appearances as well. Ordinarily, custody conferences, Divorce Master hearings, pre-trial conferences, and many other types of court appearances would be conducted in person at the county courthouse or another location, such as the local Domestic Relations office. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, however, many of these hearings are taking place telephonically or via videoconferencing technology, such as Zoom.

While there are definite disadvantages to holding telephonic or video conferences rather than in-person hearings, those disadvantages can be minimized with preparation. Below are some tips to minimize anxiety and to better prepare for a telephonic or video conference:

  1. Know the game plan: Obviously, you won’t be able to call in to a conference or sign in via Zoom if you don’t have the basic details about when and how the conference will be taking place. You may need to dial into a conference line and enter a password, or you may need a meeting ID and password for Zoom or similar technology. If you aren’t sure, contact your attorney and ask.
  2. Test your technology: If you will be taking part in a phone conference, make sure that your phone is in good working order and is fully charged. If you will be taking part in a Zoom or other video conference, make sure that you have installed the appropriate software or app to your computer, tablet, or smartphone. It’s also important to make sure that your camera and microphone are working well. In addition, it’s a good idea to test out your videoconferencing software or app if you’ve never used it before.
  3. Prepare for the hearing: While it’s always important to prepare for a hearing, and your attorney will certainly help you to do that, extra preparation may help when you will be taking part in a remote hearing. Ordinarily, you and your attorney would have the opportunity to write notes to one another or to step out in the hallway during a hearing to discuss any questions or concerns. These conversations can be very productive, but they’re largely missing during telephonic or video conferences. Because you may not have the opportunity to talk privately during your remote hearing, you should try to discuss any unanswered questions with your attorney prior to the hearing. It may also be helpful for you to write down a list of important points to help you stay on track during the hearing.
  4. Dress up: While it’s generally not necessary to wear a three-piece suit for a remote hearing (although it couldn’t hurt!), do be aware that if you are participating in a video conference, dressing too casually could leave a negative impression on the judge, the attorneys, the other party, and anyone else taking part in the conference.
  5. Minimize distractions: Find a quiet place to conduct your hearing, and try to minimize any background noise. If possible, try to ensure that young children and pets will not be unwitting participants in your hearing.
  6. Be flexible: No matter how well you or others involved in the hearing prepare, there may be unexpected problems. Technology isn’t foolproof. Also, things may be done differently than you have seen them be done at prior hearings. Presenting evidence, scheduling a follow-up conciliation or another hearing, and other activities may all be done very differently during a remote hearing. Be flexible and be prepared to adjust to different circumstances.

If you have been scheduled for a telephonic or video conference hearing, we would be happy to assist you. Please call Tanner Law Offices at 717-731-8114 to schedule an appointment.

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