As we continue to be mired in the COVID-19 pandemic, the NJ family courts continue to operate in a virtual environment. Having conducted multiple hearings by phone and video, I can say that judges, court staff, attorneys, and litigants are all doing their best in this new environment.
One consequence of conducting court hearings and trials by video is that there has been a gradual loss of decorum. During a recent meeting with the Mercer County Family Court judges the expressed their displeasure over this trend. After listening to their observations, I offer the following suggestions:
- log on when instructed (early) so that the court staff can test the connection
- If you must participate by phone, do so in a private setting. No one in Starbucks should hear your trial. And by all means, you should never be driving during the hearing
- make sure you dress appropriately as if you were attending court in person
- don’t eat or drink during the video proceeding
- don’t smoke
- create a comfortable, clutter free environment for you to sit and participate
- eliminate background noise as much as possible
- do your best to keep kids and pets from making an appearance
- be mindful of your body language
Remember that your judge can see all that is going on. Credibility is critically important in family court. Conduct yourself in a manner designed to promote your credibility.