WomensLaw serves and supports all survivors, no matter their sex or gender.

Preparing for Court

Virtual Hearings

Updated: June 27, 2024

What is a remote or virtual hearing?

Remote hearings, also known as virtual hearings, are court hearings that take place through a video conferencing system or platform. Generally, the court provides a link that you would use to join the hearing through your phone, computer, or tablet. You might be able to download it as an app or access it through a website URL.

Many states began to allow remote hearings when COVID-19 pandemic began and most courthouses shut down. However, in the years since the pandemic, many courts have continued to allow litigants to file documents electronically and conduct hearings remotely.

What types of remote hearings are available?

There might be different types of remote hearings offered depending on where you live. It is important to talk to your local court officials to make sure you understand how things will work in your case. A fully remote hearing generally means that the whole hearing will be online. Both parties, the judge, and any witnesses will appear via Zoom or some other court-approved program.

A hybrid remote hearing can mean different things in different places. In some states, “hybrid” might mean that the judge and one party appear in person, while the other party appears virtually. In other states, “hybrid” might mean that some parts of a case are held virtually, while other parts are held in person. In that situation, all of the parties would appear the same way. For example, in a custody case, a motion to continue might be heard virtually, and all parties would appear online. But then the final custody trial might be held in person, and all parties might have to appear in person.

How can I request a remote hearing?

To find out the options in your area, contact the local courthouse in which your case will be heard. These options are constantly evolving, and may be different in different counties even within the same state. In some places, it might be up to the individual judge who decides your case whether to conduct hearings virtually or in person. Therefore, it’s important to find out the procedure in the specific courthouse you will file your case in.

What are some pros and cons of remote hearings?

In many situations, the court will determine whether your hearing is remote or in-person. If you have a choice, however, here are some things to think about as you are making your decision:


  • Safety – you will not have to be in the same physical location as the abuser;
  • Convenience – you might not need to take time off work, get a ride to court, or find childcare;
  • Flexibility and timing - in some places, you may be allowed to schedule hearings at specific times, or within short time windows, instead of waiting at the courthouse all day for your case to be called;
  • Access - witnesses, victims, experts, and other important people may be able to participate in your case even if they aren’t located in your area.


  • Clarity – it can be harder for people who aren’t familiar with the court process to understand what is happening during remote proceedings;
  • Communication – if there are any issues with internet connections or confusion about technology, it can be hard to communicate effectively. This may also make it harder for you to get your points across or understand what the judge or the other party is trying to say;
  • Distractions – if you are paying attention to things going on around you or trying to get your technology to work, you may not be able to focus on the court hearing or participate effectively;
  • Privacy – if there is no option for you to blur or alter your background, everyone in the hearing will be able to see directly into your home. In a custody case, for example, a judge could possibly be influenced by something s/he sees in your home.