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Zoom Trial Tips for Family Law Cases

Zoom Trial Tips for Family Law Cases

Trial by Zoom is a technological advance that I would not have anticipated in my career, but here we find ourselves.  In addition to the physical distancing benefits, court appearances by zoom can save time, money (especially from time off work or for childcare), and the cost of attorney travel to & from court. 

However, a court appearance by Zoom is not just something to “show up for” – you need to plan ahead.  Below are some tips to help you do just that:

  1. Look for a court notice or e-mail about whether your court date will be by Zoom, telephone, or in person.  Not every case or type of court date is handled the same way, so check every time.  If none, call the Court to confirm. 

  2. Check out the Judiciary’s resources & tip sheets for basic Zoom and preparation tips:

  1. Make sure your device has Zoom installed and that you have access to a stable internet connection.  Internet problems cause the biggest delays in zoom trials.  Have a backup device (or two) just in case your preferred device doesn’t work.

  2. Audio matters.  Be in a quiet place with complete privacy.  Test the speaker quality on your device.  Consider headphones or participating both by muted video and telephone if that means better audio quality.

  3. Location matters.  If represented by an attorney, discuss in advance where you and the attorney will physically be during the trial.  Consider participating from your attorney’s office, if that means more stable internet and better access to your attorney, and have a plan for your testimony.  Will you testify from the same conference room in which your attorney is located?  Or, from a separate conference room and on a separate device, so you need not wear a mask?  Same applies for witnesses.

If unrepresented, participate from as quiet and private a location as possible.The presence of a witness in the same space can cause problems if not disclosed.If interruptions occur, ask for a break if necessary.Have ready access to your device’s charger and an outlet.

  1. Have an exhibit plan.  You should receive instructions from the Court before your trial about how to submit exhibits in advance.  Every Judge and Magistrate seems to handle this differently.  If possible, have a conference with the Judge or Magistrate before trial to understand whether exhibits used in the courtroom will be hard copy or electronic and whether screensharing will be used or not.  And, have an exhibit contingency plan – paper backup & electronic versions readily available – in case your Judge or Magistrate assignment changes last minute or technology doesn’t cooperate.  Finally, either make sure all exhibits have a unique identifying number (often referred to as a Bates Number) or describe each document very carefully to make sure that what has been marked for identification is the right document.

  2. Despite the conveniences, it’s still a formal trial.  Taking it seriously shows respect and makes a favorable impression on the Judge or Magistrate.  Participating from bed or in pajamas or while eating is not appropriate.

  3. Time limitations.  Because technology problems can eat up valuable trial time, prioritize your important points and evidence, making them first, in case time runs out.

While there’s no such thing as a perfect trial, planning ahead can help make a trial as successful as possible, even when the unexpected occurs.

Since 2002, Lindsay Parvis has represented clients in Maryland custody, divorce, and marital matters. She negotiates, litigates, and advocates for the best interests of her clients, whether in contested litigation, uncontested settlement, or premarital and other agreements. Her clients are not only spouses and parents, but also children whose interests she is appointed by the court to represent in contested custody litigation.  Lindsay strives to improve Maryland law in the General Assembly, volunteering her time to monitor, advocate, and educate about legislative developments in family law.    

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