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Asking to Appear in Court by Video App or Phone During COVID-19 (Divorce With Children)

Overview

Since the coronavirus crisis began, the Texas Supreme Court has granted broader leeway to courts to change their procedures to minimize the spread of the virus. This will be an option at least through February 1, 2021. See the Texas Supreme Court's emergency orders.

In many cases, courts have been allowing people to appear by videoconference, usually Zoom, or telephone. The courts have the authority to reschedule cases that involve complicated trials and lots of evidence, so this motion would generally be used for agreed matters or urgent matters.

For more information, read Virtual Court and If I can't get to court, can I participate by telephone?

With this form, you can ask the court to appear by videoconference (like Zoom) or telephone; to allow "unsworn declarations" as evidence, hold court at an alternative site, and to require parties to tell the court if they have coronavirus illness.

Note: If your case involves domestic violence, this form may not be appropriate. Start by getting guidance from a domestic violence advocate or other professional. For help finding a shelter or other services, see TexasLawHelp's Domestic Violence: Free Legal Help for Victims and Survivors page.

 

 

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Step 1: Find out if you need to ask the court to let you use video or telephone.

You might not even have to file this motion to use emergency procedures. 

Many courts in Texas are letting people use videoconferencing or telephonic appearances during the coronavirus crisis. Start by finding out what your court is doing. Contact the court coordinator. You can usually reach the court coordinator by calling the office of the judge in the court where your case is pending. To find a list of judges' offices, check the Judicial Directory on the web site of the Office of Court Administration.

Important: Court coordinators and clerks cannot give you legal advice. Please read What Court Clerks and Court Personnel Can and Cannot Do.

 

 

Step 2: Fill out these forms.

Motion for Use of Emergency Procedures

This form tells the judge you want to use emergency procedures for your court appearance (such as videoconference, telephone, or Zoom).

Fill it out completely in blue or black ink and sign it. You must include your name and contact information and the name and contact information for the other people who are involved.

When courts are hearing matters by videoconference and telephone, it is extremely important that the contact information is up-to-date so that everyone affected by your motion knows about the next steps.

Fill out the top of the form (the part that asks for the cause number; the names of the children; the court number; and the county) completely in blue or black ink (except for the judge’s signature) and sign it.

Read through carefully and check the boxes and file in the blanks that apply to your situation, such as:

  • your relationship to the child;
  • whether everyone agrees to file this motion
  • whether you are asking for remote participation in court proceedings
  • if you are asking the court to hold the hearing some place other than the courthouse
  • whether you are asking for remote interviews with children who are the subject of the case
  • whether you are going to use affidavits or unsworn declarations as evidence
  • whether you want people to tell you and the court—and have the court tell you if they know—if someone in the suit has coronavirus illness/COVID-19

Order on Motion for Use of Emergency Procedures

You will ask the judge to sign this form to grant the Motion for Use of Emergency Procedures.

Fill out the top of the form (the part that asks for the cause number; the names of the children; the court number; and the county) completely in blue or black ink (except for the judge’s signature) and sign it.

The judge will check the boxes next to each number in the order that applies. For example, "2. Remote Participation in Proceedings (Check if applicable.)" should be checked by the judge.

Step 3: Ask the other side to sign both forms.

If the other side has a lawyer, ask the lawyer to sign.

Note: If the other side (or the other side’s lawyer) will not sign both forms, the motion is not agreed.

 

Step 4: File (turn in) your motion.

File (turn in) your completed Motion for Use of Emergency Procedures form with the court.

To file online, go to E-File Texas and follow the instructions.

To file in person, you would take the motion and copies to the district clerk’s office in the county where your legal matter is proceeding. During the COVID-19 crisis, it might not be an option to file it in person. Call the clerk’s office and ask what their procedures are.

Ask the clerk if there is a local standing order that you need to follow or attach to any of your documents. Ask the clerk if there are local rules or procedures you need to know about for family law proceedings. Or, check the clerk’s web site, because fees are often listed online. 

If you had filed in person, the clerk would “file-stamp” your forms with the date and time. The clerk would keep the original and return your copies. But, if you are filing it electronically, there should be an electronic stamp on it. Check your email so you know what the status is.

Note: There should not be a filing fee for this type of motion. You should check with the clerk’s office to make sure. If there is a fee, and you cannot afford it, you might be able to get filing fees waived. See Court Fees & Fee Waivers.

Step 5: Ask the judge to sign your order form.

Follow the clerk’s instructions on how to present your Motion for Use of Emergency Procedures to a judge. Sometimes the judge will sign the order without needing to hear from you. Sometimes they will want to have a hearing. That hearing might be by teleconference or phone.

If the judge signs your Order on Motion for Use of Emergency Procedures, contact the clerk’s office to make sure it is on file with them. A list of district and county clerks is available here: Judicial Directory.

Ask the clerk whether you need to let anyone else at the courthouse know that the motion allowing videoconferencing or telephonic access has been granted. You may need to let the court administrator know of the change so the court’s calendar can be updated.

 

Step 6: Make sure the other people involved in the case get a copy of the order.

Send a file-stamped copy of the signed Order on Motion for Use of Emergency Procedures to the other side by email, fax, USPS, or commercial delivery. Keep proof that you sent it. You must bring proof when you appear online or by phone for court on your new hearing date.