COVID Has Modified The Approach We Do Divorce…For The Higher
When the global pandemic brought life to a standstill last March, we did what people have always done in the face of adversity; we have adapted. We innovate. We have created new systems.
Not exactly ideal, of course (hello homeschooling), but we did with what we had. Somehow we got together and it works.
Now that life is beginning to regain some of its normal rhythms, we find that we are reevaluating old processes in light of what we now believe is possible. Necessity really makes you inventive.
How we get divorced
Not every system works better in remote conditions (education for one), but I’ve found that most of the effects on divorce cases have been positive for clients, lawyers, and judges alike.
The implications of the final divorce hearing
The ability to hold video conferencing has increased clients’ personal contact with their attorneys, and the virtual court has improved access to the court system. In Michigan, only the plaintiff needs to show up to finalize a divorce. Before the pandemic, in my experience, only the plaintiff appeared in court 90% of the time. With Zoom Court this has turned and both parties appear 90% of the time.
This is very revealing; it tells me that the vast majority of people want to be actively involved in their divorce proceedings and want to be present and have in the past refused to do so because of the inconvenience and inconvenience of going to court.
Being away from work, childcare, driving time, parking, etc. -ex-spouse in the same room. Now you can do this from the comfort and safety of your home. And pants are optional. It is clear that some kind of virtual court will remain here.
Michigan state court administrator Thomas Boyd recently said that using online platforms like Zoom to conduct legal proceedings “is the greatest boost to access to justice in our lifetime” and will continue long after the coronavirus pandemic. In a statewide memo sent to administrators and judges last week, Boyd said that judges “must use good faith to conduct proceedings remotely whenever possible. The Michigan courts are not going back to the old way, ”he said. “Nearly 1,000 judges, judges and umpires are Zoom licenses and have conducted more than 3 million hours of online litigation.
Parties and their lawyers love it … exponential efficiency gains. This is no time to step back from using the technologies that have brought us this far. “
I see this trend increasing across the country as well. With many civil courts still closed, there is more than ever an incentive for couples to find alternative dispute resolution methods for disputes, such as:
Of course, friendly spouses can also be full of emotion in a divorce. Being in control of your surroundings during the procedure (complete with flattering webcam filters and backgrounds) is both comforting and empowering.
My clients (and those of my fellow lawyers) have reported that they found the online experience to be far less time-consuming and stressful than on-site. As I have dedicated my practice to the goal of making this transition in life as smooth and painless as possible for my clients and their families, I gratefully welcome this new normal.