Throughout this pandemic, we have had to become accustomed to a lot of change. Now, as the pandemic is hopefully nearing our rearview mirror, I would imagine some changes that we will see become fixtures in our lives and others that will hopefully never have to be revisited. In this sense, I suppose that we will all be doing evaluations for ourselves personally as to what works and what does not as far as long-term changes to our lives that were made during the relatively short period of this pandemic.
As far as a change that I can see being permanent, I think we have largely become accustomed to leaning heavily on technology as a means of communication. Much of the interactions we have daily during this pandemic are done on the computer. This should not surprise anyone, given the hesitancy of people to engage with each other physically during the past year. Now that the pandemic seems to be behind us for the most part, we can consider what opportunities there are to utilize technology to our advantage moving forward.
One area of our lives that's all technology be embraced out of necessity was the legal system. Although there were problems in adjusting to this method of doing business initially, the courts and attorneys alike have seen increased efficiency in many regards by interacting with coworkers, clients, and courts electronically and virtually. Despite the gaffes and silliness that we have encountered by seeing other people attempt to wrap their arms around this technology, I think that virtual and remote interactions in the law will be more normal in the years to come.
For one, scheduling a meeting, hearing, or mediation virtually takes a lot of pressure off each of us from a scheduling perspective. Everyone familiar with Houston traffic can tell you that driving even 15 or 20 miles can take upwards of an hour or more if you must do so during peak travel times in the city. We have all left from home or work to get to a location seemingly hopelessly, only to find that traffic would not cooperate. This not only impacts ourselves but those around us from a scheduling perspective. Now with remote in virtual communication becoming more acceptable, we can cut back on scheduling conflicts like this to a great extent.
On top of that, there are simple time restrictions that go into place when it comes to the length of time you must commit to performing something as straightforward as mediation. Although your mediation may only be a 3 or 4 hour period time, you have to add into that the time necessary to arrive at your location, set up your materials, and get the mediation moving. Being able to perform a mediation from your office saves you a great deal of time. I would imagine that as the pandemic wanes, attorneys and clients will be able to be together rather than appearing virtually themselves. This will make communication simpler, given that you and your attorney would likely be able to be in the same room on most occasions moving forward.
Another consideration that I think is worth paying attention to as far as a benefit of remote meetings is saving money for family law clients like yourself. Consider that attorneys bill you by the hour. Travel time to hearings, mediations, and trials all count towards their billable hours. This could have been spent working on another person's case, so the hours are typically billed against the client. If multiple attorneys are attending a hearing or mediation, then you will not be billed multiple times for the same work being done, but travel times are still built into the costs of having an attorney represent you.
With virtual communication becoming more readily accepted in the legal community, you are a client who will save money on paying for your legal representation. I don't know how much money this stands to save you in a potential divorce or child custody case, but it could end up being substantial if your case requires a great deal of time in court or mediation. With legal costs being a concern for just about every client who has ever filed a case, I can’t imagine that this wouldn’t also be something that would be encouraging to you during this time.
How to begin the divorce process remotely?
As my Gran father sometimes tells me, when I was a kid, all good things and bad things come to an end. On all of our minds, this past year was the terrible thing about the pandemic. It would certainly seem like the pandemic is closer to its end than its beginning. Depending upon when you come across this blog post, the pandemic may have already subsided completely. With that said, we can evaluate what life is like now versus what it was like one year ago. If I had been writing this blog post in May of 2020, no attorney offices were likely to open to the public, much as the courts were not open at that time. Where are things now?
Many, if not most, attorney offices are open for client meetings and consultations with potential new clients like yourself. I can tell you that the Law Office of Bryan Fagan has always maintained a strong virtual presence in being flexible as our clients' needs change over time. For that reason, we have always done our best to make sure that virtual meetings with clients and consultations over the computer and phone were available. I can tell you that this degree of flexibility is something that we will maintain in the future. It makes sense for you as the client and for us as the attorney's office.
However, we also want to know that we believe that a divorce can be work done remotely almost in full. Depending upon what sort of case you have, there is a decent likelihood that you may never have to step foot in court from the beginning of your case until the end. For that reason, being within close range of our office or even the city of Houston is not an absolute necessity. We work with clients regularly whom we have never met in person and who do not live in Houston at all. So, you should know in advance you can proceed with the divorce remotely from beginning to end.
If we're talking strictly about beginning a divorce through the remote process, you should know that not being able or willing to meet with someone in person should not prevent you from obtaining information and perspective on your case. You should always seek out the advice of multiple attorneys before considering what she should do as far as hiring one. I could not recommend more highly the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. I believe that our attorneys possess a degree of experience and skill in representing people like you in family law cases of all sorts. To me, we have an unmatched degree of experience, knowledge, skill, and customer service that you will not find anywhere else in the Houston area.
With that said, you may find an attorney you feel more comfortable with or who makes sense to you for another reason. It would be best if you also interviewed multiple attorneys to draw out the responses and perspectives of those lawyers. One of the most important aspects of the consultation process with the lawyer is gaining some degree of understanding about your case before you begin filing documents in court. Situations like this allow you to better plan for your case and conceive of goals that are achievable for you and your family.
With the implementation of digital consultations and meetings, you have no excuse not to work with an attorney to set up some meetings before hiring a lawyer. Our website makes it very simple for you to navigate and schedule a time to meet with one of our lawyers digitally or over the phone. Once you have had an opportunity to meet with one of our attorneys, you can decide for yourself about representation in the direction of your case. It may be that right now is not the time for you to file a case. Or, it may be that you have to answer a divorce petition and require advice and perspective sooner rather than later. Whatever your case, maybe you should make an effort to set up consultations with an attorney as soon as you can.
Filing a divorce remotely.
Fortunately, remote divorces make no difference in the filing process. While you may need to work with your attorney and their staff on getting documents to them in preparation for filing a petition or answer, the fact is that most counties in Southeast Texas require you to file your case on the computer rather than in person. Therefore, it doesn't matter if you live in Houston or Alaska. Your attorney will be able to file your case for you electronically, and you will not have to be present at the court when your case is filed, for example. Our law office will work with you from the beginning of your case to ensure that you have turned in any documents we need and provided any information required by the court.
Your case has been filed with the court then the next step you need to figure out is whether or not you are going to need a hearing or court appearance soon thereafter. As I alluded to a moment ago, you may never need to be in the courthouse at all during your divorce. I cannot promise you that this is the case, but there is a decent likelihood that you will never have a contested hearing before a judge. Again, this makes having a divorce or child custody case remotely even easier.
The negotiation process in a divorce is almost always done remotely, anyways. This is true in a season of a pandemic or a typical year like we will hopefully be experiencing in 2022. For the most part, your attorney will be negotiating with your spouse's attorney over the phone and by email. As long as you can be receptive to phone calls and emails yourself, then this should not be a problem for anyone. The key is that you need to be responsive when you're turning to get ahold of yourself. Think about all the times you have called someone and had that person struggle to call you back in a timely fashion. Please do not put your attorney in the position where they have to wait on you for hours or days. While technology should make life easier for you to run a remote divorce, the same is true that technology should also make it easier for you to respond to your attorney and their phone calls or emails.
Completing a divorce remotely.
The vast majority of your divorce will be spent not in the courthouse or even in the negotiated but with your spouse. Rather, the vast majority of your divorce will be opportunities for your attorneys and you and your spouse to negotiate with one another on important issues to your divorce case. The more you take advantage of this time, the better the result of your case will be for you and the likelihood that your case will be completed sooner rather than later. The longer you're taking your case takes to complete, the more expensive and time-consuming it will be.
Therefore, take advantage of the time provided to you. Once you have temporary orders set, you should immediately start to think about what you want to see happen for your final orders. Assess how well temporary orders have worked for you and determine if any changes will be made at final orders mediation. The key during this period is to make sure that you set yourself up well for final orders because there are typically no opportunities to come back and change your orders absent substantial changes in your circumstances that would justify a modification case.
The other thing to keep in mind is that final orders will require you and your spouse to negotiate on your Community property division. There was very likely little discussion of this in temporary orders. Therefore, you need to have an accurate inventory and appraisal of all your property and have scenarios played out in advance on how to negotiate the division of these items. You do not need to map out every possible circumstance that could arise in the negotiation of Community property, but having a plan and knowing your circumstances will certainly help you and your spouse.
Finally, once your divorce has been through mediation, you should make sure to read every draft of your final orders and ask questions of your attorney until you are satisfied with how the final orders are read. But you do not want to put yourself in a position where you sign a document that you have questions or reservations about. Most word processing software allows the reader to make comments that another person can review. Utilized this technology to your advantage and make the final stages of your digital divorce that much easier.
Remote divorce for a military husband or wife
finally, I wanted to say a brief word on how remote divorces have served military families for many years. Although these servicemembers' civil relief act prevents your spouse from continuing with the divorce while you were on deployment, many military members and their spouses engage in divorce cases during a time where one spouse is not living in the Houston area. Our office has worked with military members and their spouses frequently and feels fortunate to do so.
If you are in the military or are married to a military service member interested in filing for divorce, you should contact our office. We can set up a consultation free of charge with you and can answer questions about how divorce can progress despite having one or both parties not in the Houston area. Our attorneys are accustomed to working with military members and take a great deal of pride in serving those who have served our country.
Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law and how your family's circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.