HOW TO “APPEAR” IN COURT FOR YOUR HEARING IN THE AGE OF COVID

How are you supposed to appear in Court for your family law case when the Court is partially closed?

Since the COVID 19 virus has caused a partial shutdown of many courthouses in Colorado including the El Paso County Courthouse of the 4th Judicial District, appearing in person at a courthouse for most Family Law/Domestic Relations cases is not allowed. At most courthouses, only specific types of cases may appear in person—such as criminal law cases and emergency hearings for child protection and restraining order cases. However, most family law matters including divorce and custody and contempt of Court cases are all being held “electronically”—meaning by telephone or video appearances.

With the Courthouse partially shut down, family law/Domestic Relations hearings are being held remotely using the WebEx video or Shoretel phone system. These include:

Court Appearances During COVID

For any court “appearance” in your case, you will receive written instructions in the form of a COVID Case Management Order (“CMO”). The CMO will indicate if the hearing/status conference will be held by either video or telephone appearance.

Most hearings (like Temporary Orders Hearings, Uncontested Final Orders Hearings and status conferences) will be held by telephone.  Larger and more complex hearings (like Contested Final Orders Hearings or Contempt of Court hearings where your physical appearance in front of the Court matters) are more likely to be held by video. If your COVID Case Management Order does not indicate that the hearing will be by video, it will be by telephone. Some Courts allow the Parties to choose how they want to appear, but often telephone is an easier connection with less interference of internet traffic noise and connection difficulties. In fact, with one recent hearing I attended by video, the background interference was so strong that halfway through the hearing, it was converted to all Parties appearing by telephone.

If your hearing is to be held by telephone:

Your CMO will specify that you are to call XXX-XXX-XXXX (-this phone number will be provided to you in the CMO)  and when prompted use access code XXXXXX (-this access code will be provided to you in the CMO). You will also likely have to press the # key when prompted by the system.

One of the District Court Divisions instructs the following when calling and this is good advice:

  • If the line is silent when you call, please be patient and stay on the call until the Court joins in.
  • Multiple cases may be on the conference at the same time so please mute your phone until your case is called.
  • Please be mindful and minimize the background noise that may be through your telephone during the court appearance. (Many Courts will ask that you not put the phone on speaker to minimize interference).
  • Because of the challenges inherent in conference call communication, please wait to be called on before you speak and identify yourself when you begin speaking.
Online & Phone Court Appearances During COVID

If your CMO indicates that the hearing will be held by video:

The CMO will likely provide specific instructions on how to access the Webex video system. WebEx must be downloaded in advance and you must have a camera and microphone on your computer or mobile device to use the video system.

The Court may (or may not) send an invitation to all Parties with links to WebEx (like a Zoom invitation) that allows for easier access. If the CMO indicates video will be used for the hearing, but does not provide that an invitation to join WebEx will be sent, you must access WebEx yourself. The link for Webex to utilize video capabilities can be found at www.courts.state.co.us  

  • Select “Find a Court” from the menu on the left side of the page.
  • Then select “District Courts” or whatever Court applies located under the Trial Courts section.
  • Select “4th Judicial District” (or whatever judicial district applies).
  • Click on the icon for Virtual Courtroom Information (may need to scroll down for this) and then
  • Select the county that applies.
  • Then click on the icon for the Division number in which your hearing will be held.

COVID 19 has presented many challenges to the judicial process.  However, your family law case will still proceed and you can have closure on what is undoubtedly a difficult process to endure at a difficult time in your life. Having to appear in Court by telephone or video is a different experience and it requires some patience to get through a hearing. But the entire process for a divorce or custody case still exists. So, know this–there is an end in sight and at The Law Office of Jeanne M. Wilson & Associates, PC, we will help you through this process.