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172 - 9 Practical Steps to Take to Prepare for a Virtual Hearing

172 - 9 Practical Steps to Take to Prepare for a Virtual Hearing Image

07/10/2020 9:00 pm

Worried about how to be prepared for a virtual hearing? Tune into episode 172 to hear Leh and Todd break down 9 practical steps that will help you be better prepared for your next virtual hearing.

Transcript

Leh Meriwether: Welcome everyone, I'm Leh Meriwether and with me is Todd Orston. Todd and I are your co-hosts for Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by Meriwether and Tharp. Here you will learn about divorce, family law, tips on how to save your marriage if it's in the middle of a crisis and from time to time even tips on how to take your marriage to the next level. If you want to read more about Todd and I, you can always check us out online, atlantadivorceteam.com. Todd, I'm so glad to be back with you.

Todd Orston: Wow.

Leh Meriwether: It's been too long.

Todd Orston: I'm feeling uncomfortable.

Leh Meriwether: We haven't been on the podcast or do this radio channel in a while.

Todd Orston: I know, life happened and we did have to step away but we are back, and so there is a lot of information. It's funny after 170 plus episodes, there are times where I'm like, I think we're running out of things to talk about, and now I'm like, wow, there's still so much, especially with COVID and all the issues that we're dealing with and the court system is dealing with. Now there's numerous things that need to be discussed, different ways things are being handled, and so we're going to give it a shot.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. And we've actually learned a lot from this whole COVID crisis and who would've thought something like this would give us more material. I wish it never happened, obviously.

Todd Orston: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Leh Meriwether: But today we're going to talk about nine practical steps to take, to prepare for a virtual hearing. Now, we don't know how long these things are going to last. Well, I think at a certain level, virtual hearings are here to stay in many courts, they already existed in many other states, it just wasn't something that was done here in Georgia, but I do know that for years I have attended a lot of telephonic hearings in Florida courts because they were set up to handle telephonic hearings in a lot of different situations, which I really enjoyed. But now we're doing more Zoom hearings, which is ... and I've had a chance to participate in a couple and it's different.

Leh Meriwether: It is strikingly different, but we're not going to focus today on just on the sort of the legal side, more the practical side. So if you want to learn more about what happens in a divorce trial, you can check out episode 123. Now, we're probably going to do our updated one on what happens in a virtual divorce trial, and we'll focus on the legal side. And then there's episode 75, how to prepare for a temporary hearing, and then episodes 60 and 61 about testifying in court. Those are going to apply regardless of whether you're in person or doing a virtual hearing. So with that out of the way, let's dive into number one.

Todd Orston: Great plan.

Leh Meriwether: That already?

Todd Orston: It's a good number to start with. We're going to start with numbers seven. No, I'm kidding.

Leh Meriwether: Oh, okay.

Todd Orston: No, I'm joking. All right. Yes, number one. All right. So I'll jump in and I'll say, even though it is a virtual hearing, these hearings, there's still a visual component and so it's a video. So you need to make sure that you are comfortable because again, this is your bite at the proverbial apple, right? This is your day in court. It is the day for you to be heard on whatever the issue is. If it's a temporary hearing, if it's a final trial, whatever the issue might be, it's incredibly important and you need to make sure you take it very seriously.

Todd Orston: So make sure that you are comfortable being on screen, talking into a microphone or into a phone or through your computer. However you are communicating in this system, make sure that you're comfortable and if that means you need to do a little bit of practice, then so be it. Call somebody on a Zoom call, call a friend, a family member, something just to make sure that your setup looks good. It looks professional. It looks like you are taking the process seriously, and that you look and sound as good as you possibly can.

Leh Meriwether: And I would also say that, practice in front of the ... do a practice Zoom call with a friend of yours, get used to being in front of that because what you don't want to do ... Now, I will say a lot of judges and lawyers are giving people a ton of grace when it comes to testifying through a Zoom call, because this is new for a lot of people. But the better prepared you can be, the better you're going to present. So if you can practice a little with a friend, get used to seeing yourself on the screen and seeing other people on the screen, that can help you get ready for your hearing.

Leh Meriwether: I mean, lawyers, and it's really interesting, you'll also catch things. So lawyers will go to the seminars sometimes, these trial techniques seminars and we've actually done this internally, where we videotape the presentation and then you watch the tape afterwards. It's kind of like game day footage that football players or baseball players watch after the game to learn how they can do better, throw the ball better. Well, it's the same thing from what you're doing when you're testifying. If you can practice, you may catch yourself rolling your eyes. You may catch yourself slumping your shoulders. It may be something some sort of audio language.

Todd Orston: Or something even more graphic. I mean, we've all had a conversation with somebody we didn't like, and we suddenly start engaging in some form of sign language. And remember this is video. So as frustrated, jokes aside, as frustrated as you might get leading to your point, remember you are being watched and as a matter of fact it might even be a more intense visual inspection by the other parties than if you were in court, because if you're in court, you're sitting, whatever it might be, 20 feet away from the judge, and the other counsel is sort of next to you and looking at the judge and looking down.

Todd Orston: Here you're on a screen, so you're being scrutinized. And if you are making too many facial expressions, if you are making sound effects, "That's not true, whatever," that's going to frustrate the court. So you need to remember that you need to be on your best behavior, and you need to understand that everything you're doing and saying is being watched on a screen that is inches away from the judge or opposing counsel, so that anything you do is probably going to be picked up and seen and maybe held against you.

Leh Meriwether: Even the microphone on most computers and phones is very, very sensitive. So it'll pick up the slightest little thing. So going to your point, like where people go like really. I mean, you could do that in the courtroom and the judge might not necessarily hear it because you whisper it to your lawyer in your case, but on the Zoom call, you can't do that.

Todd Orston: Yeah, that's a great point. And so building on that for a moment, I can't tell you how many times and Leh I'm sure you're the same way, where I had a client who's listening to testimony that they absolutely disagree with. It could be complete lies that is being presented, that are being presented by the opposing party. And my client is "No," and they're shaking their head and they're this. And I have to put my hand gently on their arm or whatever and just sort of say, "Enough, stop, you're being watched. So just, I understand like a little bit of a shake of your head fine, but all of these sound effects you're going to get in trouble." I don't have that ability in a virtual hearing when my client is not there with me to control.

Todd Orston: That means that you, as the client, you as the person who is in this hearing on trial, you need to be controlling your behavior even more so because you don't have an attorney there with you to sort of control it. I can't through the video go, "Excuse me, Mr. Johnson, can you stop shaking your head please. Yeah, no, no, no. Don't do that. The judge doesn't like that. No stop, stop please. Sorry, judge. Go ahead." So you have to control your own behavior.

Leh Meriwether: All right. Let's get to number two, because this is actually a pretty short one before we go to break. So if you can have someone set up to take care of the kids and the pets. The nice thing about going to the courthouse is that you don't have to worry about the kids because this was ... In one of the hearings, literally the dog started barking in the background. It was kind of funny. So try to set your dog up, or whatever pet you may have, give them plenty of treats. Put them somewhere where they might not hear exterior noise that will cause them to start barking.

Leh Meriwether: Like I said, judges are still giving a lot of grace, but the more we can minimize distractions, the better the case presentation will be. And also this was a particular problem because so many kids were home from school this past year because of COVID-19, but you've got to make it where the kids can't hear you're testifying. If you can use headphones, so you can hear what everybody else is saying and the kids can't, but either have them go to someone else's house for the time of the hearing, or be in a place where they're not going to be able to hear you because they don't need to know what's going on in your case.

Leh Meriwether: So when we come back, we're going to continue to break down the nine things, the practical steps that you can do to prepare for a virtual hearing. I just wanted to let you know that if you ever wanted to listen to this show live, you can listen at 1:00 AM on Monday mornings WSB. So you can always check us out there as well.

Todd Orston: Better than like counting sheep, I guess, right?

Leh Meriwether: That's right.

Todd Orston: You can turn on the show and we'll help you fall asleep.

Leh Meriwether: There you go.

Todd Orston: I'll talk very softly.

Leh Meriwether: Welcome to Divorce Team Radio, this is Leh and Todd, and today we are talking about the nine practical steps to take to prepare for a virtual hearing. And in case you don't know anything about us, you can read more about us at atlantadivorceteam.com. The show is sponsored by Meriwether and Tharp and you can also get past episodes at divorceteamradio.com, where we also have transcripts already done.

Todd Orston: I am. I am. Hey, before we get started, one of the practical tip just about presentation and attire. Again remember, I mean, if it's a telephonic hearing, wear whatever you want, scuba gear, evil clown mask, whatever you want to wear, but if this is going to be a Zoom call, meaning a video type hearing then remember you're being watched as I was saying before. So I would probably suggest whatever you would think to wear to court, if you were actually going to the courthouse, that's what you should be wearing in a hearing where you're going to be observed by the judge.

Todd Orston: What you wear can sometimes say a lot about you in terms of how seriously you are taking the proceedings. If you're in shorts and a tee shirt, the court might look at that like, well, you don't really take this seriously. The judge is in a robe and opposing counsel is in a suit and tie and you're sitting there again in flip flops and a tank top, court might be a little unhappy about that. So just be very careful and always think towards being conservative in what you're wearing even though it's a video conference.

Leh Meriwether: It's funny you say that because I have ... so I heard from a few judges who have said they are very disappointed at what the lawyers are wearing on these Zoom calls. And then on the Zoom hearing I was participating in a few three weeks ago now, the judge was wearing a polo and he wasn't wearing a robe, but here, I was wearing a suit. I had a coat and tie on and so always make your best presentation. There's a lot of research out there that supports the fact that you gain more credibility when you make a good presentation.

Leh Meriwether: So much so, I mean, it was a criminal case actually where prisoners were ... the Supreme Court of the United States said that they should be allowed to wear a suit in the courtroom because they are automatically prejudiced against if they wear the uniform that they would wear in the jail, so. All right. Number three, find a place in your home in advance to attend your virtual hearing. What sort of things should people be thinking about when finding a good place in their home for virtual hearing Todd?

Todd Orston: Toilet, absolutely. Do it in the bathroom while you're on the toilet.

Leh Meriwether: That way you wouldn't have to take a break.

Todd Orston: That's right. Exactly. Oh, gosh. Announcing you have to take a bathroom break as you're taking a bathroom break is probably not a good idea.

Leh Meriwether: You should have just taken a bad turn.

Todd Orston: Absolutely. You want someplace where there's not a lot of distraction behind you. You want someplace where you're comfortable, where you are sitting up, you don't want to be reclining or anything like that. Again, I'm trying to think of the best way to put it, but you can score or lose points with a court, with a judge if it appears like you're not taking things seriously. And so similar to what we were saying about dress appropriately, be in an inappropriate place.

Todd Orston: Should you be out at the pool? No. Should you be in, let's say a dining room at the table set up with nothing distracting behind you? Fine. That's perfect. So just be very aware of where you're setting up the camera so that you know, is there anything behind that, I mean, you shouldn't have any offensive pictures or signs or anything behind you, just make sure that anything that can be seen in that video is appropriate and then paints you in the best light.

Leh Meriwether: And like here's a good example. If you're being accused in a custody case of not being organized and not being able to get the kids to school on time and everything, well, then don't have your background be a mess because then that sort of plays into the narrative, but it's nice and clean and tidy. Like if you had a bookshelf behind you and all the books are nice and organized, it's a visual play against the narrative that the opposing side may be trying to play against you.

Leh Meriwether: So you don't have to have books behind you, but Todd, your recommendation, like just get at the dining room table. I mean, the only thing I might say about that would be just make sure you've got good lighting. So if you're to the dining room table, and there's a big window behind you and the sun's coming in from behind you, it's just hard to see you. So try not to have a bright light source behind you. If anything, if you can have it in front of you, so the cameras and I mean, whatever you're using as your camera's facing you and the light is coming in and hitting your face, that just makes you look better to whoever's watching the video, so good lighting can make a big difference.

Todd Orston: That goes back to practice. Get somebody that you know, that you can practice with that will look, that will be able to say, "Ah yeah, I can't see you, you're in the dark." Or, "The glare is so horrible that it's really hard to see." So just practice and that'll help you. I mean, Leh, when you and I did some video spots recently, I mean, I know it took you and I probably an hour or two to figure out the right placement and lighting and all of that-

Leh Meriwether: At least.

Todd Orston: ... to make it look good. And so again, this is not just us doing a little information spot. This is you on trial or you in a hearing. So again, you want to make sure you look as good as you can look.

Leh Meriwether: And here's one thing I'm going to add too. So if your hearing's in the afternoon, if you don't know when your hearing is, if it's an all-day hearing, that's one thing, where's the sun hits your house? Like if there is a window near you, where's that sunlight coming in during the morning and the afternoon, because you may test a spot in the morning, like this is great, lighting's great, but then your hearing is in the afternoon, the sun is coming behind you, you get hot from it. It causes what's called white out, so that's just some practical tips. Think about those things.

Leh Meriwether: Also, let's say you get a great location, if you're running on Wi-Fi, check to make sure that location has a good Wi-Fi signal. You can go to speedtest.net. If your watching on an iPad or a, I'm sorry, like a tablet or a smartphone, then there's an app called Speed Test that you can get to check your speeds. So you want to make sure your upload speeds that you ... usually you want to have no less than two megabytes upload. You can do it with three megabytes upload so you can get a good video quality and everything. So again, these are practical steps.

Todd Orston: Yeah. And very quickly, if you have multiple people in the house and you know that you have Wi-Fi issues once the kids are on their tablets and your spouse is doing Zoom calls or whatever, bottom line, you need to coordinate with those other family members, because what you don't want is to think, okay, I've got the bandwidth and I think everything will be fine, but then while you're in the middle of the hearing, your kids are watching videos and your spouse or significant other is doing something else, and next thing you know, you're losing connection because there's just not enough for the entire family bandwidth wise. So you need to be strategic. You need to preplan to make sure things are going to work well during that hearing.

Leh Meriwether: Good point, good point. That's actually point number six, make sure you have enough bandwidth that day. So yes. So that was point nine, I mean, point six just because we're going to come back to it.

Todd Orston: I told you, I don't like those kinds of rules. I need to jump from number to number Leh, you can't control me.

Leh Meriwether: All right. So like let's say the best spot in your house is in an big open room and you have no privacy, then you're going to just going back to the other one about, make sure you've got the kids or the pets taken care of hopefully out of the house. Maybe someone can babysit them that day because you do not want, I mean, for my custody case, the last thing you would want is the judge to see your kids come up behind you as you're testifying about their mother or their father, that would not be good. That would upset the judge.

Todd Orston: And dogs. And pets can be a distraction absolutely, like a big white cat that you are caressing like an Austin Powers, evil genius probably won't work nor will a dog barking unless the dog is really cute then maybe you'll score some points with the judge. Just know your judge. No, I'm kidding. I'm kidding on both points. Put your dogs away, make sure there are no distractions. You don't need ... turn off your cell phone, do all those types of things to make sure that basically things are going to be quiet and there won't be a distraction during that hearing. Understand like going to and forgive me Leh, if I'm breaking another rule and jumping around-

Leh Meriwether: Oh, wait-

Todd Orston: Once you break the rule-

Leh Meriwether: When we come back, when we come back from the break-

Todd Orston: Yeah, that's a good point.

Leh Meriwether: Because you're not going to break some more rules.

Todd Orston: Hey, everyone, you're listening to our podcast, but you have alternatives. You have choices. You can listen to us live also at 1:00 AM on Monday morning on WSB.

Leh Meriwether: If you're enjoying the show, we would love it if you could go rate us in iTunes or wherever you may be listening to it, give us a five star rating and tell us why you like the show. Welcome back to Divorce Team Radio. This is Leh and Todd, and we are here talking about the nine practical steps to take, to prepare for a virtual hearing. Now, with the whole COVID-19 crisis, this has become a big issue.

Leh Meriwether: A lot of states actually already had telephonic hearings and some of them had virtual hearings, but Georgia has really adopted them because of this crisis so the cases could keep moving forward. And there's a lot of talk about, not every state's had this so, but there is a lot of talk that these things are here to stay, even with the COVID-19 going away. I do like at one level the Zoom hearings and I think we probably should do a separate show just to talk about like the pros and cons of a Zoom hearing or whatever it may be. That's just one of the software options.

Leh Meriwether: But today we're talking about the practical steps to get ready for one of these hearings, because little things can make a big difference. Now, there's a lot of grace being given by judges right now because a lot of people are adjusting and adapting to doing virtual hearings, but the bottom line, if you can give a better impression with some visual aids, let's do it. So that's what we're talking about.

Todd Orston: Yeah, judges love impressions. No, I'm kidding. No impressions, blah, blah, blah, blah. No kidding. So yeah, absolutely. Again, you're on trial. This is your day in court. You need to put your best foot forward. You need to make sure that you sound the best you can, look the best you can, and make the best arguments what have you. So just understand you are being observed, you are being scrutinized by the court. So small mistakes can have big consequences. And that's why we're saying when you are engaging in these types of behaviors, don't take it meaning a Zoom hearing rather than a hearing in court, don't take it any less seriously.

Todd Orston: Think about all these things because you don't want, the way you're dressed or where you're sitting or your audio quality or video quality to affect your messaging. The message that you are trying to convey to the court because again, if it doesn't work out for you, it's not like you just automatically get to redo it. You can't say, "Well, that didn't work out, but judge, how about another hearing tomorrow? I'm going to make all these things better. I'll sound better. Have better arguments." No, this is pieces your one bite. So please make the most of it.

Leh Meriwether: And this episode, we're not really getting so much into the different mic. I mean, you could go crazy with microphones and video cameras and everything. I don't think you need to go there.

Todd Orston: No.

Leh Meriwether: I mean, it helps, but today ... I mean, but a lot of people just don't do these things we're talking about and you do these things and everything is much, much better. All right. So this next one's a pretty short one. It's straightforward. The question is, do you like to stand or sit? Because once you set up your camera, you can't be moving around. It's just going to be so distracting. Like so let's say you like to stand, but just start off sitting and you're like, well, I need to stand up, and then you stand up and you tilt your, if you're doing it on a laptop, you tilt it back or don't, oh, my gosh, do not get a phone and do your hearing on your phone and walk around your house.

Leh Meriwether: That will be incredibly distracting to see things moving around. I haven't been in front of a judge where someone did that, but I do know people that do, do that and it is so distracting. And the last thing I want to do is do anything ... sometimes these cases are really difficult cases. The ones that you get in front of the judge, and it's often because you haven't been able to settle, not all the time, but a lot of times, so it's a hard case. And so you may be at one of those situations where it's 50, 50, it could go either way. And if it's going to go either way, I'm going to stack the deck in my favor as best as I can. So decide if you want to sit or stand for the hearing and then set your camera up and then don't move it once you set it up.

Todd Orston: Yeah. Building on that I will say, remember that you are trying to give a message to the court. You are trying to tell your story, make your points, make your argument, whatever it might be. And so anything else, like if you're on a phone and even if you think you're doing a darn good job and you're sitting there, but you're holding that phone. The fact that the phone is going up and down a little bit, that it's a little bit shaky as good a job as you think you're doing, it's a distraction, and a distraction is not a good thing in a court proceeding.

Todd Orston: You don't want the court to be distracted from the main purpose of the hearing, whatever that argument is that you're making, whatever the point is that you're making to the court. You don't want the court to be thinking, wow, I need to take a Dramamine because I'm feeling a little nauseous. All right? Because your camera is bouncing all over the place. So you want to make sure, I personally don't care if you want to or need to do it on your phone, fine, then again, set it up somewhere.

Todd Orston: Set it up if you want to stand, fine. Find a counter, don't touch the phone, set it up so it's not going to fall, so it's not going to do anything and then you know exactly where you are going to be standing. You know the phone is stationary, it's not moving and it doesn't create that negative distraction that could detract from your overall argument and potentially even affect the outcome of the hearing.

Leh Meriwether: And by the way, it's my understanding, this is a little side tip, tech tip. It is my understanding that the wired headphones for the Zoom calls plugged into a phone or a tablet sound better than the wireless ones and it's a more stable connection, but so. All right. Let's talk about the next one. If you can test out the software a day or two in advance, whether it's Zoom, Microsoft Teams because I've seen every courthouse to a different type of ... I don't know if anybody's doing Skype, but I know Zoom and Microsoft Teams are the most common ones I have seen.

Leh Meriwether: So make sure you've got the right web browser because some of these don't work well and like Safari or if you have an old computer within an Internet Explorer, a lot of them aren't supported for that anymore. Maybe Firefox or Chrome. So make sure you've got the right internet browser that it's up to date, play around with it to make sure you're familiar with the mute function, the chat function, because what you don't want to do is put a chat to your lawyer and you send it to everybody, "What should I say?"

Leh Meriwether: The judge sees that you just said that. So get familiar with the mute because you want to be able to mute your ... because maybe you do, you know you're like, man, I'm going to have a tough time keeping quiet, make sure you mute your phone. I mean, whatever you're talking through, because you can do that. So like let's say you are struggling hearing somebody say something and divorce cases are very emotional. You hit mute, you turn your head, you get out of the screen for a minute. You make those facial expressions you don't want the judge to see and then you come right back.

Todd Orston: Yeah. The courts may or may not spell everything out for you. The court might say, "This is going to be through Zoom. It's going to be through ..." Obviously they'll give you the time and all of that or a number to call in or whatever, but-

Leh Meriwether: A link.

Todd Orston: A link. They may not though. Make sure, like we as attorneys, our job is to make sure we understand the process, make sure that we are ready and then we in turn prepare our client. If you are handling this on your own, that's your job. You need to make sure if the court says, "Okay, we're having a Zoom meeting tomorrow." Okay. That may not be enough information for you to know exactly what you need to do so that you are ready at the appropriate time. In the worst case scenario, if you just can't get your ... get everything organized and get connected and all of that, and you had a 1:00 hearing and 1:30, 1:45, you still can't connect, I don't know what the court's going to do.

Todd Orston: And so you need to be prepared and then to your point Leh, practice. Make sure that you are setting up, that you're going through the correct browser. For instance, this program that we're doing a Zoom, we're using a program right now to record this show. All right? I accepted the link Leh, and it immediately went to Explore and it said, "Nope, sorry, this isn't going to work," and I wasn't able to connect. And I had to then go into Google Chrome and basically open it up there, that's not something you want to be figuring out 10 minutes after the hearing was supposed to start.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. So figure those things out ahead of time, practice with them. Make sure you understand different functions. I know it sounds so like, well, duh, but you'd be surprised how many people don't carve out time in their day to make sure their software is going to work, and just avoid it altogether. All right. Well, number six, we kind of already ... Todd already touched on, make sure you have enough bandwidth that day.

Leh Meriwether: We were recording something one time and then all of a sudden I couldn't see you and it turned out my wife was on a Zoom call. My son was watching a video and my other son was downloading a giant file and it just killed it. So make sure you've got enough bandwidth that day, coordinate. When we come back, we're going to talk about the last three practical tips you can do to prepare for a virtual hearing. I just wanted to let you know that if you ever wanted to listen to this show live, you can listen at 1:00 AM on Monday mornings on WSB. So you can always check us out there as well.

Todd Orston: Better than like counting sheep, I guess, right?

Leh Meriwether: That's right.

Todd Orston: You can turn on the show and we'll help you fall asleep.

Leh Meriwether: There you go.

Todd Orston: I'll talk very softly.

Leh Meriwether: Welcome back to Divorce Team Radio, this is Leh and Todd. We are your co-hosts and this is a show sponsored by Meriwether and Tharp. If you've missed, today we're talking about, by the way, the nine practical steps to take to prepare for a virtual hearing. If you're just tuning in and you're missing the other ones, then you can definitely check out this show on divorceteamradio.com and you can see a transcript of the show and you'll be able to subscribe in iTunes and SoundCloud. So wherever you listen to your pods, you can listen to the show. We should be everywhere. All right. We don't have time to talk.

Todd Orston: That's kind of a problem for a radio show, but all right. Oh God, all right.

Leh Meriwether: No, I mean, babble, I mean, babble, not talk, babble. Okay, yep. All right.

Todd Orston: Number seven.

Leh Meriwether: All right. Number seven. Discuss with your lawyer in advance how you will message back and forth because this is would go back to your point, Todd, like when we used to be in court that we could hand write a note to our client or our client would hand write us a note in the court. Wouldn't be able to see it, nobody be able to see it, just between the lawyer and the client. And a lot of times the notes were better than whispering because there are mics on some tables that can pick up a whisper. So you need to discuss with your lawyer in advance, how are you going to message back and forth. Maybe it's text messaging, private chat room inside the software.

Todd Orston: Something, it is incredibly important. Okay? And while you're testifying, you're not allowed or supposed to be able to, I just want to be very clear. If you are on the so-called stand, all right? So if you are testifying, then you're really not supposed to be talking with your counsel, because you're not supposed to be coached through your testimony. But at all other times then absolutely, you need, it is imperative that you be able to pass notes.

Todd Orston: If you are listening, for instance, to the opposing party testify and they are saying something and you absolutely disagree. The purpose of communicating with your attorney is you need to be able to say, "Hey, that's nonsense," and remember this exhibit, or remember this piece of evidence, or remember this statement that was made and the bottom line is, you do that so that the attorney can then cross examine and present the evidence necessary to make your point to disprove let's say what the other party is trying to say.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. This is another part of this, inside this practical tip. If you can, I recommend using a computer, number one, as far as like how to attend. Number one would be a computer, number two, a tablet, number three, a phone, so in that list of priorities. And if you can, have two devices available, because if you all decide to communicate through some sort of text messaging app outside of the whatever software you're using, you really want to have a separate ... you can't do that on your phone. You can't switch from the hearing to your text messaging. You won't be able to do it, but you could text on your phone-

Todd Orston: Right.

Leh Meriwether: ... while you have your Zoom call up or whatever it may be. Some people may feel uncomfortable with the chat function inside of Zoom or Microsoft Teams or whatever it might be. The important thing is to coordinate with your lawyer, how you're going to talk the mechanics, how you're going to communicate before the hearing. Number eight.

Todd Orston: Number eight. So trials are not just about making, and hearings are not just about making arguments. It's about not what you say, but what can you prove, and that, "Evidence" is going to come from things, testimony that is given by witnesses, but also by documentary evidence. And so make sure that you have coordinated with your attorney and your attorney ahead of time has all the evidence, all of the documents and materials that they need to present your case.

Todd Orston: And if you're handling this on your own, be prepared and preparation could also mean likely means it's not just a matter of being ready with the document as you're sitting there at the hearing, there are some judges I'm hearing that are asking for you to send ahead of time all of that information.

Leh Meriwether: So you won't be able to, let's say, you're at the hearing. You're like, "Oh, we need to introduce this email." Well, it may be too late.

Todd Orston: That's right.

Leh Meriwether: Because if the lawyer doesn't have it to enter it ... One of the hearings I was on the way the call was set up, the virtual hearing was set up, one of the lawyers couldn't present, he planned on presenting some visual images and he couldn't do it and it was the way it was set up so he wasn't able to present those.

Todd Orston: I mean, can you imagine Leh, some of the hearings, if not most or all of the hearings that we've had walking in and suddenly for whatever reason, obviously if we're in court, it wouldn't have happened, but can you imagine if all of a sudden all of our exhibits just disappear? I mean-

Leh Meriwether: I've had nightmares of that.

Todd Orston: Oh, I would faint. I don't know what I would do, but we go into court prepared. We go into court with all of the documents and evidence we believe we need to make the right case to the court. If you go in and you don't give thought to this, and all of a sudden, all of your exhibits are gone, that you can't use them because you can't present them properly, that could kill your case, that could result in you losing whatever it is you're trying to argue to the court, not getting the ruling that you are hoping for, expecting, whatever.

Todd Orston: So please, this is of all the things we've talked about, this is to me, one of the most important, because the evidence is what makes your case. It's not just you going and saying a couple things and hoping the court agrees with you, it's what evidence do you have to support those claims?

Leh Meriwether: Exactly. So make sure you have met with your lawyer well in advance, gotten him or her, all of the exhibits that are going to be used. You can't wait till the last minute. This has got to be a high priority. If you've got an attorney that's not getting back to you right away, then you need to be aggressive with your attorney about scheduling appointment to make sure they have all the exhibits for the hearing. All right. Last one, ask your lawyer if there's anything else you should be aware of.

Leh Meriwether: So this could include, what are the judges pet peeves? Like I said before, there's been a few judges that have been very vocal in the local newspaper here about how they felt that lawyers weren't taking Zoom calls seriously, and they weren't properly dressed. So they may be more important to some judges than others, still going back to what we said earlier, dress to imress. All right, so.

Todd Orston: Yeah. You need to know your audience.

Leh Meriwether: Right, and ask the lawyer too, your lawyer, is there anything I should be aware of and it could be, yeah. Did you know that the last time we were on a Zoom call you were picking your teeth? Or something like that. It could be something, but I mean, people, they may be biting their nails. I've seen some crazy things. And again, it's going back to, let's remove all distractions. Let's have the court focus on that evidence that you need to win.

Todd Orston: Yeah. You need to understand your audience. You need to understand that you are going in, take this as seriously as possible. And so the bottom line is when you are about to, or preparing for your hearing, you're about to go into court, you don't want to go in blind. You need to know who your judge is, you need to understand are they somebody who seems to like the Zoom calls? Do they not like them? How do they want to deal with the presentation of evidence? A lot of these things we've talked about.

Todd Orston: This number nine is sort of the catch all. It's like, know all of these things, because you need to understand your judge and you may not know everything. The attorney that you're working with hopefully has a better understanding of who the judge is normally speaking. And then who that judge is in terms of how they like these Zoom calls to go, because again, one bite at the apple, this is your day in court. You want to do everything the right way so that hopefully you accomplish your goals. And if you don't, well, you can only blame yourself for not doing the preparation necessary.

Leh Meriwether: And there are some times when even your lawyer's not going to know the judge. In Georgia, there was a recent election and two incumbent judges lost their seat. So there's going to be brand new judges sitting in two different counties that no family law lawyer has been in front of before. So the other eight practical tips will help you get ready for your virtual hearing to help increase your odds of success. Everyone, thanks so much for listening to the show. If you're getting a lot out of this show, we would love it if you would go online and give us a five-star review, wherever you listen to your podcast. Thanks so much.