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COVID-19: Texas Courts Switch to Zoom & Virtual Hearings

As a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency, the Texas courts are taking sweeping action to protect the health and safety of the public and their employees. One such measure includes modifying how the courts handle the public’s court hearings. In an effort to continue addressing family law matters in a timely manner while at the same time following coronavirus guidelines issued by federal, state, and local governments, the 328th District Court is conducting certain hearings through Zoom video conferences and virtual hearings.

The 505th District of Fort Bend County, Texas has announced that it is now holding non-essential hearings through the Zoom platform (these are video conferences) until further notice from the Court.¬†For those who are interested in a Zoom Hearing, all parties can agree to a Zoom Hearing by filing a “Motion for Use of Emergency Procedure.”

People who have family law matters can use this form to request various types of relief while their county is subject to a state of emergency. If you are interested in learning more about scheduling a Zoom Hearing, feel free to contact our firm to schedule a consultation.

If you are interested in participating in a Zoom Hearing, you’ll have to have an electronic device and an internet connection. You can use a laptop, a personal computer, a tablet or an iPad, or a smartphone. Zoom does not cost anything; it is FREE to download. To download Zoom video conferencing, go to https://zoom.us/support/download.

The following hearings cannot take place by video conference: defaults, enforcements, contested termination, and hearings about contested issues involving children unless there is a pre-existing written agreement. All hearings are live-streamed via YouTube.

The Court is determining which family law cases are considered “essential” so they can be heard. Essential cases include protective orders if an Ex Parte was granted, CPS emergencies and show cause hearings, habeas corpus and write of attachment proceedings, temporary orders when extreme relief is granted, and Chapter 33 hearings.

Hearings Not Involving Children

If you wish to request a hearing for an issue that does not involve children, you will have to request a hearing date and time. You’re required to indicate the type of hearing you’re requesting if you need an interpreter, and how long you anticipate the hearing to be.

As the scheduling party, you are responsible for notifying the other party of the video conference hearing and you must provide them with login details. You must eFile a Notice of Hearing and it must state that the hearing will be a video conference and it must contain the Zoom conference details, such as the link and meeting ID, which is generated by the Court Coordinator.

Child-Related Hearings

If you want to request a child-related hearing, you’ll need to obtain a written agreement from all parties involved before the video conference – please get this before you contact the Court Coordinator. You will need to file a Rule 11 agreement with the Court to prove that the agreement was made before you scheduled the Zoom video conference.

You’ll need to contact the Court Coordinator and include the opposing party or their attorney in your email communications. And, you must indicate in your request for a hearing the type of hearing you’re requesting if you’re going to need an interpreter, and how long you expect the hearing to take.

Additional Court Resources for Texas Families

Due to the current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Family Courts of Fort Bend County has implemented measures to allow cases to still be addressed without anyone having to come to court in person. This measure will eliminate the risk of people being exposed to the coronavirus in the courtroom setting.

The Court is allowing cases to be done by submission with sworn affidavits, including temporary and permanent orders for divorces, modifications, and child custody. For the above agreements to be approved by the court, the orders must contain signatures by all parties involved, including their attorneys.

To learn about Zoom Hearings, click here. For more information about agreed orders by submission, click here. To have your questions by a knowledgeable attorney, please contact the Law Firm of Johnson & Gaskill PLLC.