East Texas lawyers haven’t seen an increase in divorces, but how they happen has changed

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Updated: Jul. 17, 2020 at 12:20 AM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - While some relationships may have gained strength during quarantine, some may have fallen apart. For couples looking to get a divorce, things may look a little different with COVID-19 restrictions.

“When coronavirus hit, one of the first things we did was invest in the software and hardware necessary for video conferencing,” said Bryan Willis, an attorney in East Texas.

The first step in getting a divorce is a consultation with a lawyer.

“Up until coronavirus we had not used Zoom at all,” said Christina Davis, an attorney in East Texas. “Now it’s pretty regular. We’re offering Zoom consultations."

You can still have an in-person consultation, but if you choose to do so, there are rules.

“We are requiring anyone who comes into our office to wear a face covering,” said Davis. “We’re wearing a face covering when we’re interacting with anyone in our office and we’re asking people don’t bring an extra guest with them."

Once you’ve reached the stage to go into court and in front of a judge it depends on what county and court you’re in for how your case will be handled.

“We have three family law courts in Smith County,” said Davis. “One is hearing cases only by Zoom.”

“The Office of Court Administrations purchased a broad Zoom license that courts in Texas can operate under that license,” said Willis.

“We have another court that’s only hearing things that are emergencies and then we have a third court allowing us to appear in person,” said Davis. “It diverges depending on which county and which court we’re in front of.”

“Some courts that are still doing their in-person hearings and they’re still having normal docket call; where we used to have 15 cases on the docket and have 40 people in the court room, they’re only putting six cases on the docket and putting 10-15 people in the courtroom,” said Willis.

Both Davis and Willis said they haven’t seen an increase in divorce cases since the COVID-19 pandemic began. They said going forward they believe video conferencing will be utilized to hear from witnesses out of state as opposed to flying them in, when possible.

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