In the past year, the legal landscape has changed. For now and for the foreseeable future, most court appearances in divorce cases in New York will be virtual and will not be conducted in person.
So, what do you need to know to make the most out of your virtual court appearance?
Make no mistake, just because you are appearing from home a virtual court appearance is of the same magnitude and importance as an in-person appearance. You will be sworn in under oath and expected to participate as if you were physically present in the courtroom.
So here are seven tips to make the most of your virtual court appearance in your New York Divorce.
Know the Platform.
The New York courts have uniformly adopted Microsoft teams for virtual appearances. In advance of the appearance the court sends out a link. Download the application and test your configuration as soon as you get the link. Make sure you can be seen and heard and that you can see and can hear.
Recently, I had a court appearance, and we also sat and waited while one of the parties tried to configure the app so he could be seen and heard, much to the annoyance of the judge.
I have learned, for instance, that despite fixing my default settings, I have to always adjust my speaker settings so that I can hear the proceedings.
Be on Time
In the pre-covid days, the court would schedule a number of cases at the same time for a calendar call. The cases would be called as the parties checked in. There might also be a second calendar call for late arrivals. Now you a given time certain and you are expected to be logged in and ready to go before the judge appears virtually
Be prepared to review exhibits during the court appearance
Speak with your attorney in advance about what you will need to prepare. If you are appearing for a hearing or trial and your testimony will require you to review documents or other evidence, it may be beneficial to have those documents printed out in advance. It can get very confusing if you have to search for documents when you are nervous, under pressure and you have a lot of windows on your computer. If you do get confused about what you are supposed to be looking at, it is okay to acknowledge that and request help.
Know how you will communicate with your lawyer during a virtual court appearance
When you are in a courthouse for a trial, you often pass notes and have brief conversations with your attorney during trial. When you are virtual, you are likely not in the same room as your lawyer. This makes communication more difficult.
Under no circumstance should you use the chat in the virtual courtroom. Even if you can direct message your attorney. You do not know who else can see the chat.
If you are attending court virtually from a location other than your attorney’s office, you will need a plan to communicate by email or text message.
Prepare in advance
Pick a room or location where you will have a good internet connection and some privacy
While some interruptions like dogs barking and children crying are unavoidable, you should attempt to minimize disruptions that will distract you. It is best that you try to appear from a quiet location where you will have privacy to freely discuss the important issues in your matrimonial action.
Turn your mobile phone to silent so that you are not interrupted and do not answer it or text while visible on screen. Know how to mute yourself within the application should you need to
Make sure your camera filters are off. We can all recall the lawyer who appeared with a cat filter on. That should not happen to you.
Early on there were reports of attorneys appearing virtually in court while in their beds or inappropriately dressed. That is not acceptable!
Be seated at a desk or table and be dressed in a presentable manner; business casual is fine.
Understand that court proceedings are recorded or a stenographic record is being made by a court reporter who is on the call. You should only speak when spoken to and be respectful and courteous and respectful to the Judge and everyone on the call.
In short, you should not take your virtual court appearance casually just because you did not have to leave your home to appear in Court. The Court rulings are as effective and as enforceable as if you were physically present in the courtroom. You should act and appear as if you are physically present in the courthouse.
Contact us if you need legal representation for your next virtual court appearance.