Going through the divorce process via a virtual video platform such as Zoom works surprisingly well.
A divorce by video conference allows us to address issues related to the divorce in real-time, which is particularly important in expediting the entire process. Many of our clients are surprised to discover that most of the work we do as lawyers to prepare a case for divorce can be done through email. This includes everything from filing the case with the court to sending signatures back and forth from lawyer to lawyer. Documents can be submitted for filing electronically and the signatures can be utilized thanks to digital signatures. In fact, digital signature tools have been in use since well before COVID-19.
It is important to understand that much of the divorce process involves sitting down and working out various aspects of the separation, such as custody arrangements.
With both sides in the same room, it is not uncommon for a lot of tension to arise. We see time and time again that people shift into a more emotional, and sometimes more defensive, mode during divorce meetings and negotiations. This makes it harder to have logical discussions about co-parenting, how to share assets, and how to share income moving forward. Fortunately, though, with a virtual Zoom Room, both sides can still be present in the meetings but with a key difference from in-person meetings. The Zoom Room provides a literal, physical separation. Neither side is in the same room with one another, which tends to reduce tension and stress levels.
Are there any disadvantages of conducting a virtual divorce?
As a part of my practice, I work with a Collaborative Divorce team to make the process as easy as possible. At times, I may even have a coach to help the couple process the more emotional aspects of the divorce. I have heard from collaborative coaches and mental health professionals in mediation cases that a virtual divorce is harder because you can’t walk out of the room and take a breath if a stressful event occurs in the meeting. It is harder to judge body language as well, which means there less ability to assess the subtle information being shared.
Virtual divorces, however, have increased because of the coronavirus as they allow people to complete their divorce with no need to set foot in a courtroom. This has been of the utmost value during these difficult times as the novel virus continues to spread. As a member of a task force for the Santa Clara County court system, I have seen firsthand how the virus is causing delays. The changes the court is making take time to implement and some of the restrictions cause court sessions to be extended, particularly when courtrooms must be cleared between every session for sanitation.
There were already delays in the court system before the coronavirus hit. But now, the backlogs may continue for some time. If we encounter additional shutdowns because of the virus, all of the delays will be exacerbated because the backlog will continue to grow.
The Collaborative Divorce process is a way for you to finalize your divorce without ever having to go to court.
There is no waiting on limited resources or having to fight for the judge’s time. Instead, we only need the assistance of a court clerk. The clerk can stamp the documents that are submitted and mail them to the appropriate entities. This allows us to move things through just as quickly, if not faster now.
Most of the litigation attorneys are not using the court in the same way because they simply can’t. They cannot get court hearings as often as they would like. However, collaborative attorneys are sitting in our home offices doing Zoom meetings with clients, working through agreements, and submitting documents to the court electronically because we do not need a judge to make decisions – our clients do that. We have what it takes to get the divorce finalized in a much less stressful way.