HOW THE FAMILY COURT ARE TAKING A POSITIVE APPROACH IN COURT HEARINGS DURING COVID 19
During the Covid19 pandemic The President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane, has issued guidance to the Family Court about how to ‘Keep Business Going Safely’. These have been unprecedented times for both the courts and family lawyers. There has been a common trend that hearings have been adjourned, others have been asked to attend remotely, attend hybrid hearings, and some will be asked to attend Court in person. What is a positive is that Family court proceedings will continue while in the current pandemic which will be a help to parties who find themselves in this situation.
Remote Hearings may be held across a variety of modes. The types of hearings that will be heard include: BT Conference telephone hearings, Skype or Cloud Video platforms services or any other form of remote communication (will be more in practice even after post Covid19).
In Family Law Act 1996 proceedings which include Non-Molestation and Occupation applications, the Court have adopted an approach where the Applicant would instead of attending Court issue their application on a without notice basis they would instead email the court their application and supporting statement. The Court would then list a ‘paper hearing’ which both parties would not need to attend, for the court to consider the merits of the application. If the Respondent does not provide their position to defend the Order made against them then the Court would grant the Order. If the Respondent intends to defend the order against them, the court will then likely list a 2-hour hearing.
During the Covid19 pandemic there have been advantages for family solicitors and their clients in relation to accessibility to attend court hearings if the client is living or working abroad and cannot either afford to fly back to the UK, or lockdown has meant there have been no flights available to come back to the UK. An example of this has been when a client who lives in the UK but works abroad in Europe is unable to fly back home to attend their Court hearing. The advantage of remote hearings is that a client could still attend their hearing through the Court’s Cloud Video Platform. Remote hearings have given more of an accessible, easier approach for clients abroad.
You may be told your matter will be conducted remotely if it is one of the following types of Hearing:
- First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointments
- Dispute Resolution Appointments
- Other interim Hearings
- Simple short contested matters
- Injunction applications where there is no – or limited – evidence to be heard
- First Dispute Appointments
- Financial Dispute Resolutions
However, the Courts still in most cases are likely to have personal attendance at Final Hearings. This is due to the fact that parties in the proceedings will be required to give evidence based on their statements and also be cross examined.
The modern times are amongst us all, and the Family Courts and solicitors have embraced this new rapid change with welcome arms.
If you would like personal advice about your specific matter, please ring one of our Family Solicitors at either of our Hinckley or Nuneaton offices on (01455) 637030 or (024)76 745000 and ask for a member of the Family Team, or alternatively email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Sunny Sidhu.