Remote Family Hearings - What To Expect
- AuthorLaurie Taylor
The pandemic has left its mark on every part of our life, including the way our Courts function. However, measures were put in place very quickly to ensure the public had access to justice despite the restrictions on face-to-face contact.
So, if you have a Family Hearing, what can you now expect to happen?
The Court will consider the best platform for your case depending on the circumstances, sensitivity and complexity of the case. There are different ways the Court can hear your case, to make sure you have access to justice, while limiting physical attendance, and ensuring social distancing measures are followed.
Various platforms are available as an alternative to attending Court in person:
- Telephone conferences - The Court will give you a telephone number and passcode before the hearing. You should call the number and the Court staff can connect you with the judge and other parties
- CVP Cloud Video Platform - This video call facility is a popular option for Court hearings. Other video call facilities might be used, like Skype For Business and BT Meet Me
- Hybrid Hearings - This sees some parties being present at Court and others attending via video or telephone. This may be suitable where someone needs the support of a Solicitor, perhaps in cases of a sensitive nature
No matter which tools are used, before the hearing starts, the Court will advise you that the hearing will be recorded and ask you to confirm that no other person is with you during the hearing to ensure confidentiality. Some people favour remote hearings, some do not.
Some of the pros are:
- Less time away from work for the parties involved. Attending Court can involve a lot of travel and waiting time
- It is efficient - your hearing will start at the pre-arranged call-time
- Similarly, you will get your allocated time before the Judge. Often during face-to-face hearings other advocates attend to speak with the Judge about other matters on the Court list. This does not happen at a remote hearing
- Many find remote hearings less intimidating
- Vulnerable people may feel less supported, since they cannot have family, Cafcass officers, support workers or social workers with them throughout the process
- People who struggle with technology might find remote hearings more stressful
- Those on a limited income might not have Internet access or access to a suitable device
- Victims of domestic abuse might be intimidated without having access to the vulnerable witness room in the Court building
- People involved in sensitive cases, for example, involving removal of children might feel this should not be handled via a video call, particularly if they are on their own during the process
- The Court cannot be sure that no one else will be present during the call, even though the parties should confirm that it is the case
Clearly, this is an evolving situation and we will keep you updated on any further changes that are likely to affect Family Hearings. Our Family team is happy to talk you through the process to make sure you are confident and comfortable with the process.