The court may have a waiting period after a scheduling hearing, but that would be an internal issue left to that particular court’s discretion. The scheduling for an uncontested divorce is generally based on availability. Some parties show up to their scheduling hearing ready to get divorced that very day, and it can seem baffling that the courts don’t just do it right then. It’s my understanding that their case load prevents them. It may be that the courts create this procedural waiting period so that the parties come back resolved. Overall, the general timeframe for an uncontested divorce is a month or two after the scheduling hearing, depending on the availability.
Have The Courts Been Able To Keep Up With Divorce Cases During COVID?
The timeline has not been the same as pre-COVID. There has been one of the more major shifts I’ve seen since becoming an attorney during COVID, and that mainly deals with the jurisdiction of Montgomery County, which has started to allow regular email filings due to COVID. Prior to the pandemic, Montgomery County had been taking their time about becoming electronic; they’re one of the largest jurisdictions, so they had a lot of old files to gather. Most other counties had electronic filing already through what’s called the MDEC system. Even though not all cases can be electronically filed, going digital has still substantially transformed their system and sped up the process because you can just email your complaints with an electronic signature. They used to not even accept electronic signatures. Overall, the filing procedure has become much faster.
After a pause in March of 2020, the court systems readjusted their process by June or so to get cases going again. Maryland family law cases have been the primary legal area that has continued to function during COVID. Criminal cases were postponed, and jury trials were stuck, but family law cases switched from in-person in many jurisdictions to Zoom hearings, especially during the biggest surges of the pandemic. This system became so functional that I would still have multiple hearings a week—sometimes even multiple a day—on Zoom.
Before the courts settled on Zoom, I had to do a couple of phone trials via conference calls, which was a unique experience. Some jurisdictions still had in-person family court cases, but most of the cases I was doing were on Zoom. Many hearings are just five to ten minutes to begin with, so Zoom made that very easy to continue at a regular rate. It’s amazing how little COVID impacted the functionality of the family law section due to Zoom and the type of people who were working from home.
I hope they can continue using Zoom because it is so effective and useful. Witnesses can even appear on Zoom. I do think court appearances are important in some cases, but overall, Zoom is a great tool for family law cases.