Among all the stress and uncertainty we’re facing these days, an unexpected upside has emerged from this COVID-19 mess. It’s become a heck of a lot easier, more efficient and even less costly to resolve divorce and child custody disputes in Texas. That’s right folks—sheltering in place has its benefits. Let’s count the ways.
No. 1: We’re wasting less time (a LOT less) thanks to the rise of virtual meetings and hearings.
Unless a family violence issue or protective or emergency order is involved, you typically can’t get a hearing in the Texas family courts now. Most meetings with counsel, as well as hearings and mediation with the opposing side, are now being conducted virtually—via Zoom or another videoconferencing platform.
How does a 30-60 minute videoconference sound, compared to 4 to 5 hours waiting to get into court?
This new era of tele-law has forced lawyers and clients to become more efficient. We’re all spending less time in the attorney’s office, languishing in the courthouse for hours or attending face-to-face mediation—not to mention the time spent traveling back and forth.
Less time wasted means fewer billable hours paid to your attorney—and that’s a GOOD thing.
Judges have also embraced the new virtual way of doing things. They’ve been terrific about conducting virtual hearings, which has been another huge time saver. It’s typically easy to schedule a hearing that is convenient for all parties, hop on a virtual meeting at the scheduled time, then get on with life afterward.
Since judges are also spending less time in court, we’ve found they have more time to respond to email communications and phone calls, which has allowed us to address many issues for our clients in real-time.
No. 2: We’re resolving divorce and child custody cases faster—without going to court.
Prior to COVID-19 and shelter in place, our firm would have seven to 10 hearings set in a day. Since the courts don’t allow nonessential hearings right now, more clients are willing to work through their differences virtually or have their attorneys negotiate settlements behind the scenes. As a result, we’re handling two to three hearings daily and conducting those virtually.
Less time in court gives us more time to address client divorce and child custody issues in real-time. We also have more free time for quality conversations behind the scenes with attorneys, paralegals and support staff, so we can ultimately reach a settlement for our clients.
If you’re like most people, you may not realize that the majority of work-family law firms handle occurs behind the scenes. In fact, 90 percent of the work the Sisemore Law Firm performs actually happens outside of the courtroom—this was true even before COVID-19.
Productive, one-on-one discussions conducted between opposing counsel play a key role in the behind-the-scenes process.
Here’s how it works: I speak for my client, opposing counsel speaks for hers, then we negotiate back and forth until we reach a settlement. This approach also helps the attorneys keep emotions out of the equation, which is one of the fundamental services a divorce lawyer should provide—and a great way to save MORE time.
Clients are also spending less time fighting over the small stuff during shelter in place—and saving money.
In light of the financial uncertainty people are facing due to COVID-19, many clients are taking it upon themselves to streamline their own cases. They would rather figure out and focus on what’s important than spend extra money to fight over frivolous matters. Now that’s smart!
No 3: We’ve gone almost entirely paperless, which leaves more money in our clients’ pockets.
While clients of the Sisemore Law Firm have had the option to fill out forms and submit documents through our secure online portal for many years, more people are taking advantage of this service during COVID-19. Our Fort Worth family law firm even offers the option to sign documents (ask about our e-notary service), chat with an attorney and pay invoices online.
Going paperless offers both time- and cost-saving benefits.
This is mostly due to the fact that clients do a better job of organizing paperwork before they send it over to us. This may take you, the client, a little more time up front because it’s up to you to go through your documents and figure out what’s important. (Don’t worry, we’ll provide a detailed list with everything you need to send.)
However, since your attorney bills by the hour, you’ll save big because you won’t be paying the firm to weed through piles of unnecessary documents. Think about it: You are familiar with your paperwork, whereas the firm is not, which means it will take a paralegal much longer to figure out which documents are relevant and which are not.
Handling this step yourself may literally save you thousands of dollars.
Going paperless from the onset of your case also streamlines the sharing of information and exhibits with opposing counsel during negotiations. That amounts to additional time and money savings for you because we’re able to move your case along more quickly.
If you don’t want to go the paperless route, no worries. Contact the law firm to discuss your options.
IMPORTANT: Before you hire a divorce attorney, make sure his or her law firm has invested in a secure online portal to submit and sign paperwork. Your documents are much more safe when stored on a secure network with a strong firewall than sitting in a box in your attorney’s storeroom. (Ours surpasses the stringent standards required for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance.)
Have questions about divorce or child custody in Texas?
The Sisemore Law Firm in Fort Worth has extended its office hours during the coronavirus crisis, and as always, we’re available 24/7 via our online chat tool. We’d also be happy to schedule some time for you to speak with our founder Justin Sisemore, via phone or videoconference. To schedule a consultation with Justin, call our firm at (817) 336-4444 or connect with us online.
Photo Source: @PoungSaed via Twenty20