Tips for Online Court Appearances
The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic does not appear to be slowing down any time soon. As we previously discussed, New Jersey family courts are closed for most in-person proceedings. The Administrative Office of the Courts has not set an end date for the office closure, and the continued rise in the number of novel coronavirus cases nationally indicates that we may be in lock-down mode for some time to come. If you have a hearing in your family law matter at which you need to testify, you can expect to do so remotely via telephone or videoconference. Below, we offer some advice for making sure you make the best impression while appearing remotely. Call a seasoned New Jersey family law attorney if you have questions about a premarital agreement, postnuptial agreement, or other family law matter.
Prepare With Your Lawyer
It is always important to prepare extensively with your lawyer ahead of any hearing at which you may need to testify, but it is especially true in the era of remote appearances. Your substantive preparation should be the same as a regular hearing: Know the topic of the hearing, know what questions you are likely to be asked, practice answering tough questions, have your supporting documents at the ready, etc. The same goes for court hearings and settlement negotiations or mediation sessions.
In addition to the typical prep, make sure that you practice a video or telephone conference ahead of time. If you are appearing from your own home, do a dry run with your attorney–hold a video chat or telephone conference, depending on what the court has ordered. Make sure your internet and phone are working, that you can hear what is happening and that they can hear you. If possible, set up a side line with your attorney in case you need to discuss something during the hearing privately. You may even be able to take the call with your attorney at their office, depending on your comfort level and theirs, and the precautions you, your family, and your attorney have taken.
Get Your Equipment Ready Ahead of Time
Your attorney, the other party’s attorney, and the court will likely conference to discuss whether to hold a telephone or video conference. Make sure your attorney knows what capabilities you have–if you cannot do a video call because you lack the equipment or sufficiently reliable internet, your attorney should make that clear to the court.
Assuming that you are able to dial in to the telephone or video call, make sure you prepare and test your equipment ahead of time. If you are using a laptop or desktop computer, connect to your router directly, if possible; it is more reliable than relying on Wi-Fi. If you are using your phone or tablet, make sure to test your video call ahead of time. Be ready at least half an hour in advance so that you can work out any kinks at home and with your attorney to make sure the hearing proceeds smoothly.
It may be tempting to relax because you are taking the call from home, but do not forget: You are at a formal court hearing. Dress the same as if you were appearing in court in person. Wear professional attire, shave, groom your hair, and do whatever else you would do if you were going to the courthouse. Do not, for example, give your co-parent any extra leverage in arguing over child custody by appearing disheveled or unsanitary.
Clear Your Background
If you are dialing in to a video conference, keep in mind that the people on the other end can see what is behind you. If possible, prepare a setting where there is just a blank wall or other backdrop behind you. You do not want to have something distracting or unprofessional on display behind you that will undercut your credibility or distract the court and other parties.
This principle extends to noise, as well. Try to put yourself in a place in your home where loud noises and other distractions will not interrupt. Place pets in another room or tie them to a leash during the hearing. If you have the kids, depending on their age, try to keep them in a different room for the duration of the hearing or conference. It is also a good idea to keep yourself on mute unless you are actively speaking.
Call an Experienced New Jersey Family Law Attorney
If you are seeking a divorce or if you have questions about other family law issues in New Jersey, speak with a dedicated and talented family law attorney at the Union offices of family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro. Call us today at 908-964-0102.