While the rest of daily life has resumed to business-as-usual following COVID-19, Cook County has opted to continue the use of Zoom court in conducting the majority of its Divorce Court and Paternity Court proceedings. While appearing for Divorce Court via Zoom may be intimidating and new for some people, its use actually is a benefit for the majority of people with an ongoing domestic relations matter as it not only saves time, in not having to travel to a physical courthouse, but also money. Below are a list of the top 7 tips and tricks to appearing in Divorce Court and Paternity Court via remote Zoom video conference that will help to ease some of your concerns and worries:
Many people, even in the aftermath of COVID-19, have never had to use or appear for anything via Zoom before. If you have never had to use Zoom, we highly recommend downloading and familiarizing yourself with the technology well in advance of your anticipated court date. Whether you plan to use a desktop, laptop, tablet, or your phone you should download and familiarize yourself with the Zoom application at least one (1) week prior to your court date. This will allow you to troubleshoot any foreseeable issues prior the Court date and make other arrangements if your technology is not compatible with Zoom. Upon downloading the application make sure you are able to locate the video on/off button, the microphone on/off button, and familiarize yourself with how to type in a Meeting ID and password. It is important that you know how to enter a Meeting ID and password as links to Judge’s Zoom Court rooms are often unreliable and changing. For a full list of all Meeting ID’s and Passwords please visit the Cook County Domestic Relations website at https://www.cookcountycourt.org/ABOUT-THE-COURT/County-Department/Domestic-Relations-Division and click on the “Division Contact List with Zoom Meeting ID.”
In testing your technology, it is also important to ensure that your connection is stable and reliable. To do this, we recommend you testing your Zoom application with a friend or family member, prior to the Court date to ensure that the connection is clear. If your home WIFI or cellular data connection is spotty, it is highly recommended that you make other arraignments to appear via Zoom where there is a stronger connection as Judges will often pass cases or refuse to hear matters if they are unable to hear and/or see a party.
If you do not have reliable technology or a reliable connection, the Daley Center offers dedicated “Zoom rooms” so that all litigants have safe and reliable access to Zoom proceedings. For more information on the “Zoom Room” nearest you, please click on the link below.
For more information on how to download and use Zoom please click on the link below:
If you are unable to download Zoom, ensure a reliable connection, or access your local Zoom Room, you may also appear via phone by using your Judge’s Dial-In Number. If you are appearing in Cook County the Dial-In- Number for all Judges is (312)-626-6799. You will need your Judge’s Meeting ID and Passcode to access the Courtroom via phone.
Most Judge’s hear cases on a first come first serve basis, therefore, the earlier you are logged into Zoom, the faster your case is likely to be called. We recommend ensuring that you log onto Zoom as early as 5-10 minutes prior to your scheduled Court time as Judge’s will often allow cases to be called early provided everyone is present. For example, if you are scheduled to appear at 9:30 for a status, we recommend logging on anytime between 9:20 and 9:25. Provided that all parties are present, you will likely be able to be heard and off of Zoom prior to 9:30 when the majority of litigants and attorneys show up. If you are unable to log in early, or the other parties are not present on time, you may face wait times of up to one (1) hour for your case to be called, especially in busier courtrooms. With that said, if you are running late or unable to appear, it is imperative that you let the appropriate persons know in order to avoid having your case dismissed.
When appearing in Chicago Divorce Court via Zoom it is important that you treat the appearance as if you were having to appear in person. Therefore, you need to determine the location from which you are appearing via Zoom appropriately. In determining your location, it is important that you choose somewhere quiet with no background noise or outside distractions. Also, Cook County divorce and paternity courts does not permit children of any age to be present in Court. Therefore, please ensure that if you have minor children they are not in the room or within earshot of where you are conducting your Zoom appearance. Failure to conduct your Zoom appearance away from your child may result in the Judge dismissing the case, or even a possible bad outcome in your case overall.
For many people, a preferred location for conducting Zoom, especially during the week is from their car as this is quiet, private, and Zoom appearances are often during peoples working hours. While there is nothing harmful about conducting Zoom from your vehicle, it is important that you ensure your vehicle is parked and off at all times during the Zoom appearance. Therefore, it is important that you have parked your car and turned it off prior to even logging into Zoom Court. If you are found to be operating your vehicle while on Zoom, Judge’s will likely either pass your case until you are parked or dismiss the case that day and you will be forced to appear on a different date.
Again, if you are unable to find a safe and quiet location to conduct your Zoom appearance please visit the link above to find your nearest Courthouse Zoom Room.
As mentioned above, Zoom Divorce Court should be treated in the same fashion as in-person Court. Therefore, it is very important that you are dressed appropriately and in the same attire you would wear to appear in person. You would not wear your pajamas and sweats to appear in person at the courthouse for either divorce court or paternity court, so you should not be wearing your pajamas or sweats on Zoom. While we recognize it is easy to dress casually when you are in the comfort of your own home, it is important to remember that the Judge can see you and is looking at you in the same manner as though you were there in person standing before them. Therefore, it is important to be respectful and dress accordingly.
Up to 50 people (attorneys and litigants alike) can be in a Chicago Divorce Zoom Courtroom at any given time. Therefore, it is important that when logging into a divorce or paternity case Zoom Courtroom make sure your microphone is on mute in order to avoid disrupting any in progress Court proceedings. Failure to mute your microphone or remain on mute can result in the Judge asking you to leave the Courtroom. Just like in person court, it is imperative that your microphone remain off until such time as your case is called or you are spoken to directly by either the Judge, your counsel, or the court clerk. In addition, once you have spoken it is highly recommended that you return to mute until you are spoken to again in order to avoid interrupting or disrupting the current speaker. Again, it is important to treat Zoom Divorce Court as you would as if you were there in person and remain silent unless spoken to directly. If you are appearing with an attorney present, you will likely not be permitted to speak at all unless spoken to directly or given permission to speak by a Judge. With that said, if you are represented by an attorney, it is important that you speak with your attorney prior to the Court proceeding to determine whether you will be permitted to speak and follow the express instructions of your counsel in this regard.
Most Judges in Cook County require that your camera remain on at all times in which you are in the Zoom Court Room, whether divorce or paternity. In fact, if the Judge cannot see you, you will likely be asked to leave the Courtroom or your case will not be called until your camera is turned on. Therefore, it is imperative that you ensure your camera is working prior to appearing in the Courtroom. Once in the Zoom Courtroom your camera should only be turned off if instructed to do so by either your attorney or the Judge. However, if instructed to turn off your camera please ensure to listen diligently for your case to be called so you can immediately turn it back on to avoid unnecessary delay.
Pursuant to Administrative Order 2020 D 21, neither attorneys or litigants are permitted, under any circumstances to record or take screenshots of ANY court proceedings conducted via Zoom. Specifically, Administrative Order 2020 D 21 provides that “No one other than the judge, court personnel or a certified court reporter shall take screenshots, record, or otherwise make an audio or visual record of the proceeding. Litigants and their attorneys are permitted to take notes of the proceeding as they would if the proceeding were conducted in person”. Therefore, while it is always encouraged to take notes of what is happening in Court, no one, under any circumstances is permitted to record or otherwise take screenshots/pictures of any court proceedings under any circumstances. Serious fines and/or consequences may occur if found to be in possession of a recording device or otherwise attempting to record a court proceeding.
Whether you are experienced with Zoom, or you have never used it before, appearing in divorce court or paternity court virtually can be a daunting task. Hiring an attorney can help you to ease any worries, answer any questions and help you navigate the complexities of Zoom Court. The attorneys at Ward Family Law, LLC are well versed in appearing in Court via Zoom and successfully help client’s navigate the same on a daily basis. To learn more about how we can help you navigate your case, please do not hesitate to contact us today.
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