Following the government’s announcement of a national lockdown, most family court hearings will continue and will take place remotely.
Guidance from the family court has confirmed that the default position is now that family court hearings should take place remotely. It will still be possible to have a court-based in person hearing, but only in “exceptional circumstances”, where a remote hearing is not possible, and the hearing is sufficiently urgent. In such cases the social distancing requirements will be followed.
We expect the vast majority of the cases in which we are instructed to be able to proceed remotely. There are already reports of complex cases involving a number of witnesses giving evidence having successfully taken place remotely, and we have successfully represented clients in remote hearings.
If, however, we think there is any reason why your hearing cannot take place remotely, we will discuss this with you. We will then need to consider whether the hearing can safely be held in person or if it needs to be adjourned.
But what does this mean if you are currently in court proceedings? Will your hearing go ahead?
We all know, regardless of COVID-19, even during a lockdown family life continues and thousands of people will still be in need of a resolution for family disputes, including child arrangements, financial claims and emergency applications.
We are working with barristers and the court service to ensure that all our clients’ court hearings can still take place albeit in the new default format.
Remote hearings are taking place via a number of potential mediums, including by telephone conference call, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business. Much will depend on the preference of the judge and the technology available to the parties, their solicitors and their barristers. The appropriate technology will be agreed ahead of time and all necessary arrangements put in place.
We will liaise closely with you in advance of a remote hearing as to the equipment you will need. In most cases this will be your own PC/Mac/iPad/smartphone, with a microphone and speaker.
We understand that these are strange and unprecedented times, with new court guidance being released daily to ensure that the family justice system continues to function as effectively as possible. All members of our Family Department are available to take you through what this new direction for the courts means for your case.