Advantages/Disadvantages Of Virtual Court Appearances

As a result of the ongoing Covid-19 Pandemic and the need to maintain public safety, the Suffolk County Supreme Matrimonial Parts and the Family Court have been utilizing Skype For Business and telephonic conference calls to handle open cases. These methods of court appearances have their advantages and disadvantages, only some of which I have listed below.


1. Clients do not have to take the morning or day off to appear in court.

2. The Court is much more focused on scheduling court appearances so there is much less time wasted waiting for attorneys to show up (pre-pandemic they could be in other courtrooms due to multiple cases being scheduled all in the morning). Therefore, client's legal fees are less since their attorney is not waiting for an hour or more for the other attorney to attend.

3. The attorneys can spend more time in their office and are more productive and able to keep up with the work flow since less time is spent driving to and from court and less time is spent waiting in the courtrooms for the case to be called.

4. Emphasis is still placed on settlement as the ability to try a case is harder and while sometimes scheduled for an in person trial, certainly a virtual trial has its own limitations which are set forth in the disadvantages below.

5. The scheduling of trials is much more delayed and so if you are on the side that needs time or needs to complete treatment programs or to improve their job or residence, the delays can help make your case stronger.

6. Public safety is easy as everybody appears by Skype or telephone so there is no risk of infection.

7. The Court still has the option of requiring personal appearances when requested or deemed necessary.


1. There is no face to face interaction where the parties and court can see each other clearly. If the Skype window is set to a gallery mode where all the faces are shown at the same time the pictures are small and the focus is on the speaker. So people who are rolling their eyes or making faces are less likely to be noticed.

2. The attorneys cannot privately whisper to their clients during the proceedings without it being heard by everyone in the room. So if an attorney wants to tell their client not to do something or to stop talking it is much harder to do so during a Skype or telephone conference call.  Likewise, it is much harder for the client to whisper something to their attorney.

3. Technology limitations may interfere with people being heard. This is especially true if more than one person tries to talk at the same time.

4. Delays in scheduling virtual conferences still exist and even longer delays exist in scheduling in person conferences or trials. The courthouse is limited to utilizing only 50% of the courtrooms at 25% capacity on each day.

5. Delays may hurt the prompt resolution of issues.  This sometimes helps a party and hurts the other party.

6. When clients and attorneys attended court in person, the attorneys could negotiate in the hallway or speak to clients and then report back to the judge shortly thereafter.  Such conferences are harder to perform on the same day as the court conference as the judge may not be available at any other time the same day.

So for the immediate future, this is the new normal for divorce cases, child custody, child support and orders of protection.  Improvements and changes are frequently taking place and therefore revisions are ongoing.