Q&A with Kluger Kaplan’s Christina Echeverri: ‘You’re on Mute.’ How Zoom is Changing the Family Law Court

By November 11, 2020

Navigating family law matters under normal circumstances can be extremely hard and emotionally taxing. Now, compound it with the obstacles brought on by a pandemic and economic downturn, and the experience can become even more challenging for all parties involved. Over the past few months, family law courts, like all others, have transitioned to virtual proceedings. As a result, the limited access to the court and need to prioritize emergency matters has made the process more difficult for many families.

Since COVID-19, the legal industry has experienced an increase in divorces as well as urgent post-judgment issues and modifications to alimony, child support and time-sharing orders. Kluger Kaplan Family Law Attorney Christina Echeverri discusses some of the issues presented during the pandemic and solutions to help mitigate the impact on family law matters.

How have you been counseling clients through Zoom hearings and depositions?
While Zoom in many instances has created efficiency, it has also presented new challenges, and some hearings can take longer because of poor reception, technology malfunctions, and the now-common expression ‘you’re on mute.’

To help combat these new obstacles, we are preparing clients prior to any hearing through practice Zoom calls just as we would when they were in-person. It is important that our clients feel comfortable the day of, so we prepare them in advance, test their connection, and work out any kinks ahead of time. This gives them a leg up so that when they are walking into the hearing – or logging in – they feel prepared. I have also advised our clients to make sure that they are in a quiet place with as little distractions as possible. We are also offering clients the ability to use our office space for virtual hearings so they have a quiet space to focus or to avoid running into a potential internet connection issue.

How is the pandemic impacting cross-border litigation matters?
Like most places, the pandemic has delayed many processes because courts in other jurisdictions and countries are not fully opened. What we have always done, and continue to do throughout the pandemic, is have a joint conversation with the client and counsel in the other jurisdiction to decide the fastest option for service.

As an attorney who frequently works on cross-border litigation matters, I often work with counsel from another country to ensure that we have the right information and our strategy aligns with their policies. I am also frequently contacted by attorneys in other jurisdictions for the same reason. It is critical to rely on counsel in the other jurisdiction to make sure you are consistent and that you work together to achieve a client’s goals.

How are you advising clients who are facing domestic violence issues in court?
Long before COVID-19, domestic violence was a growing concern; however, since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been an increase in domestic violence cases which appears to be as a result of spending more time at home and economic distress within many families. The courts have remained opened during this time for the filing of these type of matters and are maintaining timeliness and priorities.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, I encourage my clients to have a support system, including recommending therapy for victims of domestic violence if they are able to. It can be challenging to open up to family and friends; however, therapy offers a neutral territory and a safe space to share and move forward during these difficult moments.

In the midst of this pandemic, I have to remind the clients that the judicial system is full of processes and protocols, and even if circumstances are different right now, there is still a framework for seeking justice.

Do you anticipate Zoom continuing in the family courts in a post-pandemic environment?
I foresee a hybrid of in-person and Zoom hearings, mediations and depositions. One of the many benefits we have seen with Zoom and family cases has been with the ease in remote outof-state depositions. For example, the ease of screen sharing of documents has significantly made it easier, including eliminating the need to travel to some of these out-of-state depositions. It has made that process more time and cost efficient.

Many lawyers in Florida are also looking for the courts to allow motion calendars on Zoom so that a five-minute hearing can be done virtually. In doing so, it would allow for these types of motions to be done quickly, minimizing the travel to and from the Court house as well as limiting the amount of people in the Court house. I realize the technology we have today is continuously being updated with new capabilities that I believe will be used to our advantage in some shape or fashion moving forward.

For more information about Kluger Kaplan’s experience or assistance with family law matters, please contact us.