Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many court hearings have become remote, including Relief From Abuse hearings. That means that the hearing will be conducted online or over the phone. Follow these tips to prepare for a remote hearing.
How Do I Know If I Have a Remote Hearing?
You should receive a notice via U.S. mail, email, phone or hand delivered by a police officer notifying you and the other parties in your case that the hearing is being held remotely.
Included with this, will be information on how to join the remote hearing. The courts are using Odyssey to participate via video conferencing for these hearings. You can either join using a phone or computer with video capabilities using a web browser or the Odyssey application. You can also join by phone using a phone number and access code, which will be provided on the notice.
If you have any questions about how to attend these hearings, you should call the courthouse in the county you are appearing in.
What If I Don't Have Internet Service or a Phone?
Contact the court as soon as possible. They may:
- Postpone the hearing until everyone can participate safely, or
- Help you find a way to participate
How Do I Get Ready for the Remote Hearing?
- Know what time your hearing starts, how to log in and what number to call. Log into your hearing at least 10 minutes in advance to ensure that your audio and video (if utilizing video) are working properly.
- If you wish to submit evidence, call the court several days before your hearing and ask them how you should submit your evidence. You may have to email the evidence, like documents or photos, several days in advance. During the hearing, inform the judge about the evidence you submitted and why it is important.
- If you plan to have witnesses testify:
- Make sure you provide your witnesses with the remote login information.
- Make sure to inform your witnesses that they cannot read from notes when they are in the hearing.
- During the hearing, you will want to inform the judge of your witnesses including their names and why they are important.
- Get your room, computer and phone ready in advance.
- Plan to have someone watch your kids or pet.
- Find a quiet place where no one will make noise or interrupt you.
- If you are appearing by video, make sure that your background is court appropriate (aka. Don’t have paraphernalia, inappropriate posters or art, or anything illegal behind you!)
- Have all your papers ready, including a list of what you want to say to the judge and questions for any witnesses handy.
- If appearing by video, dress to impress! Ensure that the camera is eye level and an arm’s length away. Dress neatly. Sit in a well-lit room.
- If appearing by phone (no video), prop the phone up so you don’t have to hold it. Consider using earbuds or headphones, rather than using speakerphone, so that your hands are free and your sound quality is optimal.
- Make sure you sound good!
- Pause before speaking in case there is an audio/video delay.
- Mute yourself when not speaking to improve sound quality.
- Talk slowly and do not interrupt the judge, witnesses, or the other party.
- Check if you have a working computer microphone and speakers – be sure to test them ahead of time.
- You have the choice to join the meeting by phone or video. If using the video, make sure you have a good internet connection. Similarly, if using the phone, ensure that you have good cell phone service. Depending on where you live in Vermont, it may be best to use a landline (if you have one) instead of a cellphone so you can hear and be heard. Have a back up plan in case your computer, internet, or phone is not working. If you do lose connection, join in again because the hearing will likely still be going on. If your connection is dropped and you cannot get back into the hearing, call the court immediately.
- Charge your computer and mobile device beforehand. Have your charger near you in case you need it. If calling, be sure you have enough minutes on your plan.
- If joining with a computer, avoid Internet Explorer. Consider downloading the Webex application ahead of time or you can join just by using your web browser (learn more about joining a Webex meeting). Don’t run other programs that might make your computer or connection run slowly. Close web browser tabs that you don’t need.
Tips for the RFA Hearing
- Don’t eat, smoke or chew gum
- Don’t fidget or swivel in your chair
- Have a pen and paper ready to take notes
- Have the phone number for the court ready in case your connection fails
- Have the login information for Webex ready in case your connection fails
- If you have a lawyer, discuss your hearing ahead of time. Figure out a plan for how to communicate with your attorney privately during the hearing (eg. text message, email, Webex chat, etc.)
- If you have a special need, such as the need for an interpreter, contact the court right away after learning of your remote hearing and ask them for help in advance.
The Vermont Courts also offer some information about remote hearings.
What If I Need Legal Help?
For advice, contact Burke Law at 802-318-8076, or fill out our contact form.