By Martin Sliwinski, Divorce and Family Law Attorney
Most non-hearing and non-trial family court dates in Illinois are still currently taking place on Zoom. This helps eliminate difficulties of having to drive to the courthouse or arrange for childcare. For these reasons and more, Zoom makes it easier for a party to be involved in the court dates for their divorce case.
For court appearances labeled as status updates to the Judge, Zoom provides an avenue for a quick appearance. For complicated trials with binders of exhibits and many witnesses, Zoom may have limitations, and a Judge may request that the parties attend the trial at the physical courtroom. However, Judges will default to having most court appearances via Zoom due to increased ease and accessibility.
Is Zoom Court Permanent?
Yes. Zoom is here to stay as a primary option for family court in Illinois.
Effective January 1, 2023, the Court amended Illinois Supreme Court Rule 45 with a new title of, “Remote Appearances in Circuit Court Proceedings.” This updated rule states:
- A judge presiding over a case in which the option to appear remotely without any advance approval is permitted may, in the exercise of the judge’s discretion, require a case participant to attend a court proceeding in person for reasons particular to the specific case, including the failure of a case participant to follow applicable standards of decorum. When exercising such discretion, the judge shall inform case participants on the record if they are required to attend a future court proceeding in person.
To explain: this indicates that routine appearances will be via Zoom unless the Court decides that an in-person court date is necessary. In fact, the Court has prepared a list of types of court proceedings that necessitate an in-person appearance—a trial, for example. However, these are exceptions whereas Zoom is the expected default option for appearances.
If a trial is held via Zoom, the Judge will ensure that the party on the Zoom call is not secretly communicating with anyone else during the case or using the Internet or any other information during the court case.
It is important to note that while Rule 45 is quite favorable toward Zoom appearances, the Courts are not to deny a participant the ability to appear in person at the courtroom if they wish to do so or if they cannot appear remotely without substantial assistance.
If in-person is truly not a possibility, the Court must let the participant know in advance that the appearance must be via Zoom and provide the party with the appropriate information and technology at the courthouse, if possible, to facilitate a remote appearance without any cost to that party.
How Do I Know How to Use Zoom for Court?
Luckily, for anyone who wishes to appear via Zoom, the updated rule requires all courts to set forth a new set of instructions for Zoom within 90 days of January 1, 2023.
Therefore, by April, each court will provide instructions for the following:
- How to log into any virtual court proceeding by phone or computer
- How to obtain assistance for issues pertaining to using or logging into a virtual court proceeding
- A list of types of court appearances that cannot be held by Zoom
- How to ask the Court that a court appearance be held via Zoom
- How to dress and act during a Zoom appearance (including if anyone can be in the room with you, what you can bring or not bring, if you can eat or drink during the virtual court appearance, and so forth)
- What website(s) or other locations you can access to find out all the information above
The above information will be posted by every single courthouse and made available to all parties to a case by the beginning of April.
Zoom will not only be an option, but an encouraged option, for court appearances that do not appear on the exempt list. In essence, Zoom Court is here to stay.
Contact Our Divorce and Family Law Firm in Evanston, Chicago and Lake Forest
If you’re worried about what a divorce or family law case might look like in terms of Zoom, my colleagues and I are eager to answer your questions and support you through the process.