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Before COVID-19, Michigan required you to come to court to finalize a divorce, even when the case was uncontested and the parties had a written agreement. However, in response to COVID-19, the Michigan Supreme Court issued an administrative order in early April 2020 allowing judges to hold court hearings online. By July, courts across the state had already logged more than half a million hours of online hearings despite courthouses being closed for non-essential cases like divorce.
Although the state continues to lag behind much of the country when it comes to e-filing, Michigan courts appeared to make quick work of implementing the technology needed to keep the courts running during COVID-19 closures. By May 2020, the MiCourt Virtual Courtroom directory had given statewide public access to online hearings to the public. The website allows anyone to search for live Michigan court proceedings by county or judge and watch live Zoom hearings streamed on YouTube. As has been the case in much of the country, COVID-19 restrictions have finally dragged the Michigan court system into the 21st Century, making it more accessible to the public than ever, and as a result, Michiganders can now get divorced without ever leaving home.
Michigan court Zoom divorce hearings use a "waiting room" feature where participants wait to be let in to the video hearing when the judge is ready. The divorce hearing may not start at the exact time on the notice. When it’s time for your hearing, the judge will let the Plaintiff in and the Defendant as well if he or she has decided to attend. Then, just like with an in-court hearing, the parties will be sworn in and Plaintiff will give testimony. The following sample testimony provides general guidance for a Michigan divorce hearing:
Approach your Zoom hearing the same way you would if you had to go in front of the judge in a courtroom. While an online hearing is more convenient, it should not be seen as less formal. Follow these tips when preparing for your upcoming Zoom hearing.
Make sure you have reliable internet.
Do not make a video or audio recording of your hearing.
No eating, drinking, or gum chewing.
Limit background noise, distractions and 3rd party interactions.
If you can’t connect to the meeting, immediately e-mail your judge’s office.
Do not allow minor children view, hear, or be a part of the court hearing at any time.