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National guidance on remote court proceedings for the Family Court

March 27, 2020
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In light of the ongoing development of the COVID-19 pandemic, the President of the Family Division has issued guidance, which is intended to take effect from 19 March 2020, in all levels of the Family Court, including the High Court Family Division.

The objective is for business to keep going – whilst keeping safe.  The position will be that all Family Court hearings should be undertaken remotely, either via email, telephone, Skype or video. However, where the requirements of justice requires parties to attend a hearing and it is safe to do so, then a court hearing should take place. 

Ince has categorised a number of areas where it is suitable for remote hearings to take place and they are dealt with under the sub-headings below.

1. Private Law Children

(a)       First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointments;

(b)        Dispute Resolution Appointments;

(c)        Other Directions Hearings;

(d)        Short Contested Hearings.

2. Injunction application, where there is no evidence to be heard.

3. Financial Hearings.

There is a separate appendix to the President’s guidance in respect of Financial Remedy Courts.  First Appointments should be done under the accelerated paper-only procedure.  Judges should accept Consent Orders which have been approved by the parties, dealing with the First Appointments routinely. In addition, parties will be encouraged to have private Financial Dispute Resolution Hearings, as opposed to having one in open court. 

A private Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing is a hearing that takes place in a barrister’s chambers or a solicitor’s chambers and is conducted by an independent lawyer who is booked by both parties. The default position in relation to other hearings is that it should be dealt with remotely, either via Skype or telephone. The physical hearings themselves should only take place when it is “absolutely unavoidable”.

In terms of urgent cases, arrangements should be made for them to be conducted remotely.  Where it is not possible to conduct a remote hearing and there is a “pressing need for issues to be determined”, then the case will be heard in open court.

Financial hearings may be conducted by way of:-

  • Telephone conference calling facilities.
  • Court video link system, if available.
  • Skype for business app installed on judicial laptops.
  • Any other appropriate means of remote communication, for example – BT, MeetMe or Facetime.

At Ince Metcalfes, our Family Team have valuable experience in dealing with urgent matters and dealing with matters on a remote basis. We are used to appearing before courts via telephone or on other electronic means, such as Skype or WhatsApp.  

If you are having difficulties with remote court proceedings, please do not hesitate to contact us. We can provide you with expert advice in relation to all family law matters and assistance in dealing with these particular issues.

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National guidance on remote court proceedings for the Family Court

Julian McCarthy

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