I’m Not A Cat, But Can I Get Divorced Over Zoom Anyway?

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Fox Rothschild LLP

One thing this pandemic has taught me about my fellow lawyers: we are adaptable.

Just take the lawyer trapped in a cat filter as an example. Despite his adorable faux pas, his reaction was not to jump off the Zoom call in shame. No – he said to the judge that he was willing to proceed with his case. AS. A. CAT. (If you ask me, the most astounding part was that opposing counsel and the judge kept their composure the entire time). If that doesn’t tell you what you need to know about this profession, I don’t know what will.

In New Jersey, within weeks of the pandemic hitting, a full system was put in place to keep us all moving forward. From criminal arraignments, to child support hearings, the Court system just picked up where it left off, albeit with some changes that we’ve needed to quickly adapt to as lawyers.

The family part, in particular, rose to the occasion. Whereas our prior filings were all paper-based, we now can simply upload our filings to the Judiciary Electronic Document System (JEDS). We engage with email and our cell phones. We haven’t missed a beat.

Our motions are now heard via Zoom, with even the most seasoned judges and lawyers having become familiar with the program (although apparently some still get stuck in the kitten filter). I’ve even participated in several Zoom trials.

While remote proceedings are not without their pitfalls, the rate and fluidity with which our courts have adapted is astounding. At this point, almost 11 months in to the pandemic, we can file a complaint via JEDS, attend a Case Management Conference via Zoom, have a conference call with opposing counsel on our cell phones, email motions to the judge’s staff from our home computers, attend mediation without ever shaking hands with the mediator, and get you divorced never having stepped foot in to a courthouse.

So while the pandemic has brought many industries to a grinding halt, lawyers are still here, adapting in ways we never thought possible. And yes, we are even prepared to move forward when we get stuck in a kitten filter.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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