Taking Divorce Virtual
How a Jameson Law Manages a Virtual Divorce Case in Colorado
In the era of COVID-19, everyone is using virtual meeting software to conduct business. However, my Collaborative Divorce colleagues and I were already doing it.
A Case Follows Its Clients
This case began in the typical in-person format in Michigan. The husband met with me several times over nine months as he contemplated filing for divorce. Shortly after it became clear that ending the marriage was his next step, he and his wife decided to sell their home and move to another state, where two of their married children live.
It is not like any case can go virtual; attorneys are bound by the parameters of the State Bar and can only practice in states where they are licensed to do so.
Based on my state’s laws, if my client moved to Colorado and then filed for divorce, I could not represent him.
But he wanted to work with me in a Collaborative fashion on his virtual divorce. Accordingly, we filed in the state of Michigan before they moved, which relegated the case to the state where they had lived during their marriage.
Committed to the Collaborative Process
They agreed to proceed in a Collaborative fashion, and the wife hired Collaborative Divorce attorney, Tucson divorce attorney. We created a team that included divorce financial planner Jacqueline Roessler and divorce coach Judith Margerum. Everyone agreed that this case would be conducted through video conferencing.
I assumed the professionals would be together in one place, and the parties in another place, but this did not happen. For scheduling convenience, each professional joined from her own office, and our clients were in their home in different rooms.
As the case progressed, I thought it would be better for the team to gather in person, especially for a pre-meeting and a debrief after the client meeting. As it turned out, due to the pandemic, we connected via our own shelter-in-place locations.
For the most part, the virtual divorce case proceeded beautifully with Zoom as our means for communication and meeting. There were drawbacks of course. For example, it was harder to take side meetings with a client or team member on Zoom. However, it was possible using the Breakout Rooms feature.
On the positive side, the Collaborative tone remained in this virtual format.
Collaborative Focuses on the Family
As usual with Collaborative Divorce, we were able to focus the process to suit the family. This family was in transition, so we created virtual meetings to accommodate their desire to move, rather than having to wait for their divorce to be final in Michigan.
Another plus is that you can see people’s reactions and responses, which is crucial for the mental health professional on our team. While we cannot read the energy as we would in-person, we can still see, really close up, each face.
And, scheduling meetings is a breeze – no need to plan around drive time or calendar conflicts.
Today’s technologies make it easy to expand our Collaborative world while still getting the same great work done.
Here are some tips for making video conferencing work for divorce law cases.
- Pay attention; make sure you are looking at the screen. People often get distracted during a video conference and might look to another screen, thus missing reactions and responses.
- Because everybody is on a computer, the person taking notes can type it on their own device. I could look at the meeting and type while it was going on.
- It is easy to record the meeting for future review. People sometimes forget what they said or agreed to, or perhaps different parties have different interpretations of the proceedings. Having the ability to record the meeting eliminates confusion. Professionals should be aware of the most current privacy standards that apply to them in regards to use of this technology, specifically around recording. In addition, mental health professionals may need to determine whether their technology platform is HIPPA compliant prior to hosting or recording meetings.
- Choose a platform that you’re comfortable with. We use Zoom, but there is also GoToMeeting, AnytimeMeetings, and others. Choose one that offers the option of breakout rooms.
- Be prepared. Learn how to share your screen, know the software, know the technology before the meeting begins.
- Plan your pre-meeting and your after-meeting, especially if professionals are not in the same room. Planning is still very important.