The Future of Family Law: There’s an Upside to Our Trying Circumstances

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“There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” —C.S. Lewis

While we have a long way to go before the coronavirus pandemic is in our rearview mirrors, we’re getting a glimpse of what family law will look like in the future. Family lawyers, clients and the courts adapted pretty quickly to shelter in place, simply because we had to make adjustments during these unprecedented and chaotic times. And we’ve adapted for the better.

As we all try our best to remain hopeful, the Sisemore Law Firm in Fort Worth believes C.S. Lewis was on to something. A lot of good happens when we’re forced to do things differently, and that goodwill produce fruit long after this pandemic is over. We also believe this will be true for the world of family law and the people our profession serves.

Visit our page dedicated to COVID-19 resources for the latest information pertaining to Texas family law and the pandemic.

Three changes to family law that will flourish post-COVID-19

No. 1: Practicing law in virtual settings and going paperless.

People are getting comfortable with resolving their divorce and child custody matters virtually because they’ve been forced to do so in many different areas (work meetings, virtual classrooms, doctor’s visits, etc.). Our firm is conducting more client meetings, mediations and hearings virtually—by phone and videoconference—than we ever have before.

We expect family lawyers and the family courts to come up with even more innovative ways to use virtual settings in the very near future. 

We also believe the transition to paperless processes will continue to thrive once our new normal sets in. Both practices—virtual meetings and paperless practices—make handling legal matters so much more efficient for everyone involved!

Consider this: Four to five years ago about 60 percent of our clients felt comfortable scanning and emailing documents to us and not having meetings face-to-face. Now we’re seeing closer to 90 percent of people being comfortable with technology that allows us to meet and share information virtually. It’s safer right now, and it saves time! 

Those clients who used to say, “I don’t use email,” or “I don’t know how to use a computer,” are changing their tunes. Since shelter in place, we’ve had Zoom meetings with people in their 60s and 70s. These same folks are organizing their paperwork, scanning documents, e-signing and transferring everything virtually via our secure online portal.

The virtual exchange of information really expedites the process for our divorce and child custody clients. 

Instead of waiting a week or two to get documents signed and exchanged, virtual and paperless processes allow us to share information in minutes. This “new” way of doing things saves time for all parties involved, and we expect it to continue, especially as technology continues to advance in the years to come.

CAVEAT: The security of a law firm’s network is paramount as family law goes high-tech. Not all law firms have stepped up to the plate in this regard. It’s important for clients to inquire about security measures like encryption and firewalls if they expect to conduct business in a virtual or paperless fashion. For example, the Sisemore Law Firm’s secure network surpasses security standards required for HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliance.

No. 2: #WFH: Divorce attorneys conducting business away from the law office. 

We’ve had the technology to work remote for years but it wasn’t the norm in the legal space. People expected to come to our office or the courthouse and meet with us face-to-face. That’s just the way our business traditionally operated. Those old traditions have withered away due to social distancing mandates. 

Consequently, our lawyers don’t need to come to the office to meet with clients in most cases. We conduct consultations via teleconference or with our mobile phones, and we can do so from the comfort of home or in the car on the way home from a grocery store run.

Technology enables divorce attorneys to conduct business from anywhere, in real-time—all we need is a smartphone. 

With the platform our firm uses, we have access to everything at our fingertips. We can literally pull up a client’s file and any documents or exhibits we need. In the past, we had to come into the office and sift through a paper file, that’s just not the case anymore.

We still believe it’s a good idea to meet with your attorney, in person, at their law firm—when it’s safe to do. You learn a lot about a lawyer and his or her practice through an in-person visit. However, meeting in person isn’t always necessary, and it certainly isn’t efficient from a time perspective. 

Technology allows us to respond to client requests on-the-go, from virtually anywhere and in real-time. This is a huge benefit to our clients, so it’s easy to see why we expect fewer face-to-face meetings in the future.

No. 3: The emperor has no clothes: Bad divorce lawyers will be fully exposed

You know what a bad lawyer looks like? He’s the lawyer whose response time stinks and who won’t return calls or emails in a timely fashion (among other things). The good lawyers have always been great about communicating. The “new” way of doing things in family law—virtual meetings, more email correspondence among all parties, etc.—exposes bad lawyer behavior for what it is.

We see these scenarios with clients who are trying to amicably resolve divorce and child custody issues quickly so they can avoid unnecessary costs and going to court. When they see the other party’s lawyer respond to emails promptly (everyone’s cc’d), while their attorney takes days or weeks to respond, that bad lawyer is probably going to get fired. He should get fired, and YES, you can change attorneys once divorce proceedings are underway.

The pandemic forced the practice of family law to change, saving clients time and money—don’t expect THAT to change

As we discussed in a recent post, changes prompted by COVID-19 actually streamlined divorce and child custody cases, while reducing costs. If anything good comes out of the coronavirus mess it will be that our clients are saving time and money today and they will continue to save both in the future.

In the meantime, we’re here to help if you have questions about divorce and child custody in Texas. To speak with a member of the Sisemore Law Firm team or schedule a confidential case review with our founder Justin Sisemore, contact us. You can reach our Fort Worth law office at (817) 336-4444 or connect with us online. We’re also available 24/7 via the online chat tool on our website.

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