Russell Alexander Says ‘Zoom Divorces’ Break With Court Traditions

Streaming video poses challenges for poor clients, domestic violence victims and others

Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers say online courtroom appearances in divorce cases have caused problems for some families, even as they have provided a solution during the coronavirus pandemic.

With many divorce cases now being handled through streaming video chats, clients with lower incomes, those who are not tech-savvy and victims of domestic violence have been particularly affected, said founder Russell Alexander.

“Without streaming video, a lot of these divorces could not move forward during the pandemic, but there are tradeoffs,” he said. “Virtual courtrooms can be a lot more stressful for some couples, especially those who were already facing a difficult case.”

With courtrooms largely shut down since last spring due to Covid-19, many judges have turned to streaming video options such as Zoom for court proceedings. Ideally, the couples are in separate locations and everyone involved is dressed professionally and well-prepared, Alexander said, but that’s not always the case.

“We have seen clients who were a lot more disheveled than they would be if they were going to courtroom, as well as some lawyers,” he said. “Counsel have been chastised by judges for showing up in swim trunks next to a pool and even in bed. Some people have been in their cars,
even driving, during a proceeding.”

Alexander said the trend will likely end once the pandemic is over, but he expects routine hearings may continue to be held virtually.