Since the onset of COVID-19, the way people do things in society has changed. Everything from the way people work to the way people prepare for a court date has shifted from in-person to virtual. And, although many of these changes have been relatively seamless, some of them seem confusing.
Fortunately, even if you have an upcoming court date on Zoom, there is a foolproof way to prepare for it. In this article, you’ll find the best way to get ready for your virtual court date.
How to prepare for a Zoom court case
No matter what type of court case you have, chances are you’ll need to prepare for your next court meeting to be virtual because of the ongoing pandemic. For that to happen, here’s what you need to do.
Get acquainted with Zoom
If you don’t already have Zoom, it’s time to get it. On the computer, visit www.zoom.us and follow the instructions there to download the video conferencing system. Alternatively, you can find Zoom on Google Play or the App Store if you’re using a mobile device like a smartphone or a tablet.
Once you have the program or app installed, set up an account by following the prompts. It only takes a few minutes, but make sure you get it in advance of your court date.
Test your video and audio at least 12 hours before your scheduled court date. Simply go to “Settings” or “Preferences” to do this. Also, run an internet speed test to make sure you have a good Wi-Fi connection. If using a computer, hook up the device to an Ethernet cord for a more stable connection.
It never hurts to be early, so join the Zoom call 15 minutes before the scheduled time. That way, too, you’ll have some leeway in case your internet connection is spotty or your device needs an unexpected update.
Every Zoom call has a unique meeting ID and password, which is emailed to you before the start of the video call. Make sure you have this information at least 24 hours in advance, or as soon as possible so you’re prepared for the meeting. If you don’t have the information, request it as soon as you can.
Join the Zoom call by clicking the option, “Join with video.” You may have to wait for the host to start the session. If you haven’t already done it, make sure your screen name is your full, legal name as it appears in the case. You may also have to include your case number. Check with the court’s rules in advance.
Once the host is ready, a message will pop up asking you to join with audio. Select this and you’ll be allowed to enter the virtual meeting. When you’re in the meeting, refrain from messing with the different settings or buttons on Zoom as this could disrupt your call or result in you accidentally leaving the meeting. If you have a divorce lawyer in Birmingham, Alabama representing you then you should get with them to help you prepare and to tell you the local rules of the particular court you are in.
Treat the virtual court date as you would any other. This means:
- Have everything you need for the court date ready to go for when it’s your time to speak or present your case. This includes official documents, evidence, and copies of everything for easy reference during the case.
- Wear professional clothes. If it helps with the audio or reduces background noise, wear a headset.
- Make sure the background is appropriate for the virtual meeting since the judge and anyone else in the meeting will see it. Center yourself on the screen and set up a good light source that illuminates your space.
- Remove distractions. For example, turn off your cell phone, close the door to whichever room you’re in, and eliminate any unnecessary sounds.
- In a Zoom call, one or more participant’s internet connection may be faulty. Sometimes, audio doesn’t come through clearly and it’s all too easy to talk over one another or miss something important that someone said. Be patient and listen. When you’re not talking, set your audio to mute to avoid distracting anyone.
- Always follow the rules of the court. Even though it’s virtual, the meeting is still official which means anything you do will be held to the same standard as an in-person meeting.
- Remain present at all times.
Take advantage of Zoom’s key features
Zoom is a useful tool with many features when it comes to virtual meetings. Some of its most helpful features that you may need during the virtual court date are:
- Share Screen – This is used to virtually share or present important documents on your computer to the courtroom. In some cases, only the host of the meeting can determine who’s allowed to share their screen at any given time.
- Breakout Room – This is where two or more participants can go to have a private discussion during the meeting.
- Interpretation – In cases where a translator is necessary, this can be useful.
- Chat Room – Not only can you use this to have a private conversation, but you can also use it to send documents. Make sure the court allows private conversations before trying to start one though or you could be removed from the meeting.
- Leave meeting – When the time comes, click this button to exit the virtual courtroom.
What to do if you can’t attend the meeting
If something’s come up and you can’t make the virtual court date, you’ll need to file a motion that indicates why you cannot attend. In this motion, you may request an in-person court date instead. Depending on the reasons, the court will deny or grant your motion.
Whatever your role in the virtual court, it’s important to come prepared and act professionally for the entire duration of the meeting.
Remember, there may be certain expectations that come with a virtual call vs. an in-person call. However, the rules of conduct are generally the same – or extremely similar – in both cases. By checking your technology and background, dressing appropriately, and gathering all your documents in advance, you’ll be as prepared as possible for your virtual court date.