Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, many courts, including Bexar county, have turned to a platform called Zoom to conduct hearings. Though the transition may seem daunting to some considering the nature of the family law practice, using the application is quite simple and many attorneys have been able to successfully conduct hearings in this manner.

As we navigate these changing times, we continue to represent our clients to the fullest extent regardless of the platform and have included some basic tips to help you understand the platform as well.

Creating your Zoom Account

Zoom offers a free service that allows three people to meet for up to forty minutes. If you need additional “lines” the first plan is $14.99 and allows you to have 100 participants and up to 24-hour meetings.

You can search for Zoom in your app store on your desktop or mobile device. Once you have downloaded the application to your device, simply enter your email address and a chosen password to open your account. Zoom will then send you an email to verify your account.

Once you have completed creating your account, you will be able to open the application and begin conducting meetings.

Pro Tip: Download a professional picture to upload as your “profile” picture to appear when you want to use audio only during a meeting.

Participating and Starting a Meeting

If you are participating in a meeting, the “host” will either sed you a link to simply click to join the meeting at the scheduled time or they may send you a meeting ID. If they send you a meeting ID, simply click “join meeting” on the home screen of the application and enter the meeting ID and password sent to you.

If you are hosting a meeting, begin by selecting “schedule a meeting”. You may then enter the details of the meeting including the time and the participants you wish to include. You may also select at that time whether the meeting with be video or simply audio. If you are using video, be sure to select video for the participants as well so they may participate (otherwise they will only have the audio function).

Conducting a Hearing

    Witnesses

Witnesses will be put in a “waiting room” during the hearing and allowed to enter the hearing by the Judge. It is important that witnesses arrive on time and continue to wait until they are called into the conference.

    Shared Exhibits

Per the Bexar County District Court Judge’s, all Exhibits intended to be used at the hearing must be exchanged 24 hours prior to the hearing. It is imperative that you fully cooperate in getting any pertinent documents to your attorney timely so they are able to meet this deadline.

However, some Judges may allow exhibits to be produced throughout the hearing that were not previously exchanged depending on the situation. The easiest way to share documents during the hearing is using the chat feature.

    Mute

Make sure you “mute” yourself whenever you are not speaking. Whenever someone is not muted it can cause interference in the audio as well as pick up your dogs barking in the background. If you are the host, you can mute everyone as well.

    Background

Make sure that you are in an appropriate setting. If you do not have a space that is ideal you can choose a virtual background. To access this feature, click on the icon that looks like a video camera at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen then choose “choose virtual background”. You can use a free background or you can download a background.

Pro Tip – “Pretty” Filter: You can turn on the “touch up my appearance” feature by going to settings, then video and clicking the box that says “touch up my appearance”.

    Chat Feature

You may chat between parties privately in the zoom conference. However, when the hearing is over and if and when the transcript of the conference is every downloaded all chats will be included. All private conversations with your attorney should occur using email or text during the hearing.

Practice Hearing with your Attorney

All of the attorneys at BBR have used the Zoom application and are proficient in conducting hearings this way. If you have an upcoming hearing that will be via Zoom your attorney will meet with you prior to the hearing to help walk through these steps and answer any questions you may have.

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