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I want to appear in family court remotely.

Virtual Court: Procedure

In a family law case, you can ask the court to appear remotely, by videoconference (like Zoom), telephone, or other available electronic means.
Overview

Guide Overview

Warning: The information and forms in this guide are not a substitute for the advice and help of a lawyer. It is a good idea to talk with a lawyer about your particular situation.

Under Texas Rules of Civil Procedure 21d, Texas state courts may allow or require parties to appear by videoconference, telephone, or by other available electronic means. The only time courts cannot require a remote hearing is if there is oral testimony or for a jury trial without good cause or agreement of the parties.

TexasLawHelp is working to provide you with accurate information on virtual court procedures and platforms. To help improve upon the information that is available, please leave any comments or recommendations in this Virtual Court Content Survey

Research Tips

Find out if your court allows remote hearings. TexasLawHelp's Virtual Court County-by-County section has state court procedures for 24 Texas counties. If your county is not included, you can check your county's local rules of procedure. The Office of Court Administration has put up a guide to the process that includes instructions and links to tutorials. You can also view a list of YouTube channels that broadcast from specific Texas courts.

Read TexasLawHelp's articles on the different videoconferencing programs used by the courts to prepare for your hearing:

Watch the videos What Are the Rules for Virtual Court in Texas? and

How Do I Get Ready for Virtual Court?

This guide can’t answer every question. Researching the laws and regulations is important. For more information on how to conduct this research, read the Legal Research Guide.

You can go to a law library to conduct legal research. There is a directory of public local law libraries at Law Libraries in Texas.

Examples of books and guides to look for at a law library:

  • O’Connor's Texas Family Law Handbook,
  • Texas Family Law Practice Manual,
  • Texas Family Code Annotated, and
  • Texas Jurisprudence.

A law library may also have a subscription to an electronic legal research service such as Westlaw or LexisNexis.

A Texas resident who's not near a law library may access more information by registering for a free Texas State Law Library Account. With this account, you can access a variety of online sources.

Common questions about Virtual Court: Procedure

Yes. You can ask the other side if they agree to reschedule the case and ask the court coordinator by email if this is an option. You will need to Cc: the other side (such as the other parent) and other interested parties (such as the Office of the Attorney General if this is a child support case).

Or you can try to get a continuance. A continuance changes the date of a court hearing or trial to a later date. You can ask a judge for a continuance by filing a motion for continuance. Read How to Ask for a Continuance for more information.

You can use Zoom on a smartphone to access your court hearing. But you may have better results, based in part on having a steadier internet connection, if you have access to a laptop computer or desktop with a webcam. Zoom may be easier to use on a computer. Read How to Use Zoom to learn how to use Zoom on an iPhone or Android.

Check with your court first. One way it is being done is by emailing your exhibit to the court coordinator. They can handle it so that the judge, court reporter, and the other side can see your exhibits at the right time during your hearing. 

Some courts may have strict deadlines for sending in documents. You should ask the court coordinator and a lawyer who practices in that jurisdiction to learn how that court is handling this. One way to find a lawyer who practices in your jurisdiction is through a certified lawyer referral service.

Instructions & Forms

Warning: These instructions provide general information and are not a substitute for legal advice. It’s a good idea to speak to a lawyer about your particular situation.

In a divorce suit, you can ask the court to appear by videoconference (like Zoom), telephone, or other electronic means. 

Checklist Steps

You may not even have to file this motion to appear remotely in court.

Many courts in Texas allow people to use videoconferencing or telephonic appearances after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Start by finding out what your court is doing. TexasLawHelp's Virtual Court County-by-County section has state court procedures for 24 Texas counties. If your county is not included, you can check your county's local rules of procedure or 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 website of the Office of Court Administration.

Important: Court coordinators, administrators, and clerks cannot give you legal advice. Please read What Court Staff Can and Cannot Do to learn more.

The Motion to Appear in Court Remotely (called the Motion for short) tells the judge you want to appear remotely for your court appearance (either by videoconference, telephone, or another available electronic means).

When you fill out the Motion:

  • Print your answers completely and clearly in blue or black ink.
  • Do not leave blanks, except for where the judge will sign.
  • Mark the correct boxes for your request.
  • Fill in the top of the form (the part that asks for the cause number; the names of the people involved in the suit; the court number; and the county) exactly as it appears in other court documents.
  • Include your name and contact information and the name and contact information for all other people involved.
  • Sign it.

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

Read through it carefully and check the correct boxes. Fill 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 someplace other than the courthouse;
  • Whether you are asking for remote interviews with children who are the subject of the case; and
  • Whether you are going to use affidavits or unsworn declarations as evidence.

Next, you will fill out part of the Order on Motion to Appear Remotely in Court (“Order”). This form is for the judge to sign to grant your Motion to Appear Remotely in Court.

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.)" will be marked by the judge.

If the other side has a lawyer, send the forms to them for their signature.

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

File your completed Motion to Appear Remotely in Court form and the proposed Order forms with the court.

To file online, go to E-FileTexas and follow the instructions. You can read How to E-File and the guide I want to electronically file (e-file) my documents if you have questions.

To file your forms in person, take your motion and copies to the District Clerk’s office in the county where your legal matter is proceeding.

At the clerk’s office:

  • Turn in your Motion and copies.
  • Ask the clerk if there is a local standing order you need to follow or attach to any of your documents. Also, ask if there are local rules or procedures you need to know about for family law proceedings. (You can also check the clerk’s website because fees are often listed online.)
  • The clerk will “file-stamp” your copies with the date and time. The clerk will keep the original and give one copy back to you.
  • 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 your filing fees waived. Read Court Fees & Fee Waivers for more information.

Follow the clerk’s instructions on how to present your Motion to a judge. Sometimes the judge will sign the order without needing to hear from you. Other times, they will want to have a hearing. The hearing may be by videoconference or phone.

If the judge signs your order, contact the clerk’s office to make sure it is on file with them. A list of district and county clerks is available on the Judicial Directory and on the district clerk’s website.

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

Send a file-stamped copy of the signed Order 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.

Forms Required

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