The new normal in divorce cases is to conduct hearings virtually--either by Zoom or Webex. If you have a Zoom or Webex hearing coming up, here are ten things you need to know:
1. Make sure your computer or laptop and microphone work. If you have never used Zoom, do a trial Zoom beforehand with your lawyer to make sure everything is in good working order. Judges have limited time for hearings and will not appreciate someone trying out their electronics for the first time during a hearing.
2. Understand how to turn your microphone on and off during the hearing and keep it off until you are testifying. The slightest movement of paper or other sound will be magnified if done in close proximity to a microphone and will interfere with the Court's ability to hear anyone else.
3. Make sure you set up your computer or laptop in a quiet place. If you have pets or children, make sure they are in another room (or another location altogether). There is nothing worse that a barking dog or crying child in the background when you are testifying.
4. Do not allow your children or witnesses in your case to listen in on the hearing in another location. It is never appropriate for children to be made aware of what is said or done in court. And most hearings require witnesses to be sequestered (isolated) prior to testifying. Don't risk being reprimanded by the court by allowing children to log on to another computer to listen in on the hearing. The Judge controls the hearing and can find out the identity of other participants who are logging in to the Zoom or Webex hearing. You could lose your case, or lose custody of your children, simply by violating this one rule.
5. Make sure no one else is in the room with you during the hearing. Courts want to be sure no one is signaling or coaching you while you are testifying under oath, which is clearly improper and can result in sanctions. While it may be tempting to hide someone else in the room with you, it becomes obvious someone is in the room when shadows appear on surrounding walls and the speaker's attention is distracted while testifying. Testifying via Zoom or Webex is just like testifying in court. You have to take the stand by yourself without interference from anyone else.
6. Dress for court from the waist up. The Judge will be dressed for court and expects you to be as well. That means hair neatly combed, appropriate makeup and business like clothing that has been clean and pressed.
7. Avoid chewing gum, eating and drinking during a hearing. You wouldn't do this if you were testifying live in court so don't do it during a hearing--the only exception being if you need a quick drink of water to clear your throat.
8.Don't talk at the same time anyone else is talking and don't use your phone, search the internet, text or chat during the hearing. Although there is a chat feature in both Zoom and Webex, I strongly recommend you avoid using it. It is too easy to send a group chat when you intended to send one only to your lawyer. Wait patiently for your turn to testify and listen attentively to what is being said. If you are testifying and there is an objection, immediately stop talking until instructed to continue. Don't risk coming across as unprofessional by interrupting someone else.
9. Don't roll your eyes, shake your head or make faces during a hearing. You should anticipate that the other party and his or her witnesses will say things you don't agree with during the hearing. This is to be expected. Be mature and professional while listening to other witness testimony. Getting emotional wont help your case or impress the Judge.
10. Always refer to the Judge as "Your Honor" and be courteous and polite to opposing counsel and refer to him or her as Mr., Ms. or Mrs. ____. You don't get extra points by being rude or condescending to the lawyer who is cross examining you. Hearings are formal proceedings and you are expected to conduct yourself appropriately.
Be sure to follow all of these rules during your Zoom or Webex hearing to make a good impression on the Judge.