2020 has been a difficult year and has brought many changes to our lives, and the world of divorce is no different. Pandemic related stress has caused an increase in divorces and has dramatically changed how the courts are functioning and processing divorce cases. For amicable divorces, the changes have made the process more efficient and user friendly.
Basically, we have moved to a virtual divorce. Currently, every part of the process is handled remotely and/or electronically. I conduct the initial consultation via Zoom. While I think most potential clients would prefer to meet me in person, there are benefits to meeting via Zoom; primarily a meeting is easier to schedule if you can meet from your own home and do not have to find the extra time to drive to my office.
At the end of the consultation, if you decide to retain me, we will forward the retainer agreement and all the initial court documents via DocuSign to sign electronically. We also include a link to pay the fees safely online. In an improvement from pre-Covid, the courts in Oakland, Wayne and Macomb counties now allow divorce cases to be filed electronically, so we can start the process almost immediately.
During the process, all communication will be via email and telephone. Another advantage is the ability to have Zoom calls instead of conference calls, which makes them feel a little more personal.
Finally, the greatest benefit in the current situation is that all court hearings in Oakland, Wayne and Macomb Counties are taking place via Zoom. Instead of driving to the courthouse, sitting in the courtroom waiting for your case to be called, and then standing before the Judge in front of total strangers, the hearing will take place via Zoom. Not only do you save the drive time, but the wait time is reduced because the court schedules each case for a different time slot. The hearing is less daunting since it’s on video and as with the rest of our pandemic world, pants are not required.
Once the hearing is complete, the Judge signs the documents electronically and our office receives them through email.
Personally, I miss the human connection of meeting with clients in person and being face to face with the Judge. But virtual court is far more efficient and less intimidating for divorcing people and I hope that many of the procedures, especially court appearances by video, stay in place long after the pandemic is over.