I wrote to you a couple of weeks ago because I need an alimony reduction. COVID-19 has impaired my earnings. I have heard that I might get a hearing faster before a judge if the hearing is online, rather than in person. How does that work? Is the courthouse safe with COVID-19? Should I have an online hearing for my alimony reduction? I am still seeking that reduction in alimony.
The North Carolina court system as a whole has subscribed to WebEx, an online remote meeting platform.
The court clerk sends a link to your court session to your computer. You click on the link, and you are in the courtroom. You have a “mute” button and a “video” button to utilize during the proceeding. The judge will want to see your face and upper body, so leave the video on except during courtroom breaks. It is best to “mute” your microphone if you are not speaking to prevent feedback into the courtroom.
The WebEx platform allows Exhibits to be placed on the computer screen of all the participants. In Guilford County, the judge may direct a paper set of the exhibits delivered to the clerk of court or to the courtroom.
You can obtain a free account with WebEx for practicing, but you will not need an account yourself to attend the hearing. You will join by clicking the link with your browser. Practice using WebEx at least once before the hearing. Our District Court judges in Guilford County, led by Chief Judge Vincent, are creating remote hearing opportunities to move court dockets.
I have participated now in several remote hearings with WebEx and I find the hearings superior to “in person” hearings in many ways. There is focus and efficiency. There is safety from COVID-19, and the Guilford County Courthouse has been declared a “cluster” of COVID-19 several times. For any bench trial (a trial by a judge), I recommend hearings with WebEx or another remote meeting platform. Guilford County is in line to receive electronic filing. The electronic filing will shift thinking to “paperless.”
In Florida, the courts use TEAMS, another remote platform. There are no live bench trials in Florida. All filings are electronic. I have attended hearings with TEAMS in a case I have being heard in Florida. I also did one mediation with TEAMS. I have done many mediations with Zoom. WebEx, TEAMS and Zoom are all quite similar. WebEx has more encryption safety.
As with any change, many resist change. Others embrace change. Be one of those to embrace the change for remote court. It is the way of the future, even after COVID-19.
Send your questions on family law and divorce matters to “Ask Carolyn…” at firstname.lastname@example.org, or P.O. Box 9023, Greensboro, NC 27427. Please do not put identifying information in your questions. Note that the answers in “Ask Carolyn” are intended to provide general legal information, and the answers are not specific legal advice for your situation. The column also uses hypothetical questions. A subtle fact in your unique case may determine the legal advice you need in your individual case. Also, please note that you are not creating an attorney-client relationship with Carolyn J. Woodruff by writing or having your question answered by “Ask Carolyn…” “Ask Carolyn…” will be a regular column, but not necessarily weekly.