Coronavirus and My Family Law Hearing

Coronavirus and My Family Law Hearing

Following the Prime Minister’s address on Monday evening and the Lord Chief Justice’s announcement that new trials will be halted in the Crown Court until specific arrangements have been made to ensure safety, what will happen to family law hearings?

Thankfully, the President of the Family Division and Head of Family Justice, Sir Andrew McFarlane recently issued helpful guidance, which is intended to be followed by all levels of the Family Court and in the High Court Family Division.

In short, the aim is to “Keep Business Going Safely”, so unless you hear otherwise from your solicitor or from the Court, your hearing shall still be effective. The manner of the hearing shall change, however, as the hearing shall more than likely be remote as opposed to in person.  Indeed, remote hearings are to be the default position until further notice unless the requirements of fairness and justice require a court-based hearing and it is safe to all persons required to conduct one. By remote, the guidance means by telephone conference call, or a video app.

The guidance makes clear that nearly all categories of family law hearing are suitable for remote hearing including all directions and case management hearings, private law children hearings and financial cases. If your case has already been listed by the Court and you are due to attend, arrangements should be made to conduct the hearing remotely and your solicitor will confirm the revised arrangements with you.

We are fortunate that remote hearings are now straightforward to arrange as a result of the video Apps available to facilitate large meetings or conferences such as Skype, Zoom, BT MeetMe or FaceTime. 

In summary:

  1. Your hearing is still going ahead;
  2. Your hearing shall be remote unless exceptional circumstances apply;
  3. You should ensure that you are familiar with a suitable App in order to ‘attend’ the hearing.

Finally, and most importantly, we encourage you all to follow the Government Guidelines and to take extra care with your health and the health of others around you in these unprecedented times. 

If you have any queries regarding any matters arising from this article, please contact a member of the Family and Divorce team on 020 8280 2713 who would be pleased to speak with you. 

Written by Claire Oldfield, Solicitor in our Family Team.