The effects of the COVID-19 on the Family Court system…
Making sure the Courts and Tribunal service continues to run effectively is essential for public service. With so many hearings taking place every day at the Central Family Court in London and at regional local Courts, COVID-19 has certainly had an impact on the way in which these hearings will be taking place moving forward.
Recent guidance published by the President of the Family Division encouraged the use of telephone or video conferencing to support upcoming hearings and the Courts are preparing for an influx of audio hearings and conferencing in the coming weeks. We note that some hearings are being adjourned so that the courts can put in place the rules for remote hearings, and the technology and training.
It is ultimately up to each Judge to decide how best to carry out the hearing and he or she will have regard to the following factors when deciding how best to proceed:
- Issues such as the nature of the matters at stake during the hearing;
- Issues that the use of video/audio technology may present for participants in the hearing and whether they have suitable access to the same; and
- any issues around public access to or participation in the hearing.
If a hearing does take place by telephone or video conference, all the parties can still attend and have legal representation present, with Court bundles and documentation being filed electronically to avoid the spread of Coronavirus through manual documentation.
The advice at present is that wherever possible First Appointments should be avoided where routine matters can be agreed by Consent Order and there should be private Financial Dispute Resolution appointments where possible (and we would add affordable).
Generally, face-to-face hearings will only be taking place where they are unavoidable.
For further information and regular daily updates as COVID-19 unfolds, click the link here.