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Family Law Litigation in the 21st Century

While Jetson's it's not, litigation in the 21st Century is proving to be filled with fascinating opportunities that we've never experienced before.

I worked in another international custody trial last week as it occurred in Great Britain, though I was deep in the heart of Marietta! I appeared by video via the internet. Again, I was providing evidence on how we handle custody and access (visitation) issues in the United States.

This is the next phase of litigation: witnesses appearing by video conferencing.

In family law, we have forever been plagued by key witnesses living out of state and out of the country. Before now, their testimony was obscenely costly to procure. You had to fly them into town, put them up and feed them, for what was certainly key evidence, but might only take two hours of court time.

Now, as courts get more and more proficient at it, remote video testimony will become about as simple as a Skype call so that you can bring witnesses into court from anywhere, Albuquerque to Antwerp to Addis Ababa.or Minneapolis to Marseille to Marrakesh.

And after the courts routinely allow remote video testimony from out of state or out of the country, expect to see remote hearings where the judge sits in her office and the attorneys appear from their offices, with their clients by their side or maybe even with the clients at home, work or in their car. In certain cases, Europe is already experimenting with remote video hearings.

And these hearings won't be by video because someone is out of state or out of the country, counsel and client might be just down the road or across town. Still, the convenience and efficiency of not requiring someone to come to court and sit in the courtroom for perhaps hours at a time while waiting for their case to be called will generate support from both the Bench and Bar to adopt this system on an increasing basis.

I would expect remote hearings to start in a system like Fulton County's which already has a separate Family Court complete with 30, 60 and 120 Day Status Conferences. It is not a leap to see that approach further improve with the implementation of video conferencing. I wouldn't be surprised to see the court trying it out by the end of next year.

So, yep, litigation has entered the 21st Century. The practice of law is indeed only as limited as our imaginations.

Michael Manely

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