If you were at a point where you were ready to finalize your divorce before the COVID-19 pandemic and shelter-in-place order, and now feel unsure about how to move forward, schedule a remote prove-up hearing. Although courts are primarily closed to non-emergency matters, the courts are still running. Judges are still conducting hearings, issuing rulings, and entering orders. They are just working remotely like most of the rest of us. Don’t think that just because a shelter-in-place order has been issued, that your case cannot move forward and that you cannot actually finalize your divorce. In fact, you absolutely can move forward with finalizing your divorce by setting up a remote prove-up hearing. If anything, these virtual hearings may prove to be a more convenient and easier process than an actual in-person hearing.
Remote Prove-up Hearings are Available by Mutual Consent
In order to move forward with a remote hearing, both parties must consent to have the hearing done remotely. Your attorney or your spouse’s attorney will need to draft an order saying that both parties agree to have the hearing conducted remotely — rather than in person. Once the order is entered and forwarded to the judge, then the judge will set the date and time for the hearing as well as let you know they would prefer to conduct the hearing.
Technology: Zoom, Video, and Telephone Conferencing
It seems to be that judges prefer to see the parties and their attorneys so that they feel a little more confident in their rulings and issuing orders. That being said, teleconferencing and telephone hearings are definitely available. So if that is the only technology you have available to you and you do not have access to a computer, smartphone, or a data connection that would allow you to download and participate in a Zoom hearing, let your attorney know. Your attorney would communicate that to the judge, and the hearing would be scheduled accordingly.
Advantages of Participating in a Remote Prove-up Hearing
Remote Hearings are Quick, Easy and Convenient
For one, remote hearings are very focused and very quick. Because there is nothing else going on in the courtroom, and no other cases are being called, it means that you will have the judge’s full attention. You would be able to conduct the prove-up without any interruptions or distractions. As a result, the hearing and the testimony will most likely be done in approximately fifteen minutes. This ultimately is an excellent use of everyone’s time. For those of you who have been in the midst of a long divorce case, been to other court dates, and participated in other hearings, you will really appreciate how nice it is to have the matter heard on time without having to wait for other cases to be called.
In fact, a remote prove-up hearing will arguably be the most convenient hearing that you will ever participate in. You will not have to worry about the hassle of driving to court, parking, or getting to the right courtroom. With a remote hearing, all you need to do is make sure you have access to Zoom at the scheduled time and get logged in when your attorney asks you to do so.
Remote Hearings are Still Formal Judicial Hearings
When you see the judge, they will be wearing their robe. Your attorney will be dressed professionally. You, yourself, should also dress the way that you normally would if you were going to an in-person hearing. Just be cognizant of the fact that the judge can see you throughout the proceeding. The judge will swear you in and you will give a formal testimony in order to finalize your divorce.
Testimony at a Prove-up Hearing is Straightforward
Typically, when we prepare our clients for prove-up hearings, we give them a script of questions to review so that they are familiar with the questions that they will be asked. However, if that is not an opportunity that you have with your attorney, just remember that you are going to be testifying to the information you know really well. You are going to be testifying to your marriage, to information about your spouse, as well as the terms of your settlement agreements. Lastly, you will be asking the judge to finalize your divorce. It really is not anything to be terribly nervous or concerned about.
Preparation Tips For Participating in a Remote Hearing
Get comfortable with Zoom or other technology before the hearing.
Our biggest suggestion is to download Zoom well in advance and give yourself a chance to become familiar with the software. You want to feel comfortable with the software because it is actually time for the hearing. We also recommend signing on early so that it gives you and your attorney a chance to figure out technical difficulties should they arise. Everything should be resolved so that by the time the judge signs on, the parties and attorneys are all ready to go.
Find a quiet and private space to participate in your remote hearing.
You will need to be able to focus and hear the questions that are being asked of you. You want to be able to think about your answers without any distractions or interruptions.
If you are the respondent, do you have to be at the hearing?
If you are the respondent in your case, and not the petitioner, like in-person court appearances, you do not have to be present or participate in the remote prove-up hearing. If you are represented by an attorney, an attorney can appear on your behalf. Or, in the agreed order, you can request to be excused and explain that you do not want to participate in the hearing. You absolutely do not have to be present and participate just because this is a remote hearing. If you do not wish to be present at the court date, you do not have to be.
Here is a video guide to help prepare you for a remote hearing.