The introduction of social distancing in response to the coronavirus outbreak has caused disruption to many vital services – including in the justice system. Many services that would typically have taken place face-to-face have been adapted to meet the challenges of our current climate. One such service is family court hearings, which may now take place remotely. In this post, we look at how remote family court hearings currently operate.
For now, it is the default position that family court hearings will be held remotely using phone, video link or emails. However, there may be certain circumstances where in order to ensure fairness and in the interests of justice, a court-based hearing is necessary.
Where such a hearing is safe to take place, you may need to attend a court-based hearing. It will be up to the judge, magistrates or panel to decide whether a court-based hearing is necessary. They will consider whether audio or video testimony is suitable for the matters at stake, and the issues they may present for those taking part in the hearing.
Even in the circumstances where a case is urgent, arrangements may be made swiftly for the hearing to be conducted remotely. When it is not possible to carry out the hearing remotely, but there are urgent issues to be dealt with, the court can arrange to conduct a court-based hearing while adhering to social distancing guidelines.
Your solicitor may arrange a remote hearing, or if both parties have not yet instructed a solicitor, the court will organise the remote hearing. When the applicant has instructed a lawyer, they will be responsible for arranging the hearing. However, if the applicant does not have legal representation, but the respondent does, the respondent’s solicitor will arrange the remote hearing. Where the court buildings are closed, a member of staff or a judge working remotely will arrange the hearing.
Remote hearings can be carried out using a variety of communication methods, and the tools that are used will depend on the requirements of the hearing. The following methods may be used:
Remote hearings must be confidential, and all parties to the hearings must attend in private. It is also now an offence to make an unauthorised recording of a remote family court hearing under the Coronavirus Act 2020.
Magistrates and judges must strive to ensure that only those who would be permitted to be in the courtroom may have access to the remote hearing and that all parties understand the rules.
To discuss any family legal matter, please contact our Family Law team on 01892 526344 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For further information on all our Family Law services, please click here.
Whilst our offices are closed to the public during the coronavirus pandemic, we are offering a telephone appointment service which gives you one hour of time with a solicitor for £100 + VAT. Please get in touch if you feel this type of appointment would be beneficial.
The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.