Remote Hearings in Family Proceedings

In my experience, before Covid-19, remote hearings via telephone or video call didn’t happen very often. Now, hearings being carried out remotely has become the norm and this can mean that a number of shorter hearings can be carried out more efficiently and more effectively. As we have entered into a third lockdown the Lord Chief Justice has issued a statement on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the court system, that “facilitating remote attendance of all or some of those involved in hearings is the default position in all jurisdictions, whether backed by regulations or not”.

Having remote hearings has allowed them to take place from our living rooms, kitchens and home offices. Remote hearings are taking place via several platforms including Microsoft Teams, Skype, Zoom and telephone. If your hearing is being made via a video platform, you receive an email containing a link, which you will need to access the hearing. Hybrid hearings, where some parties attend court in person and others are remote, are also being made, where a remote hearing cannot be carried out.

Going to court at the best of times is an overwhelming experience but the added stress of a remote hearing and technology sometimes failing, or possibly not having access to a laptop or other device to attend a hearing, can all lead to added unnecessary stress. Before Covid-19 there was the added comfort of being able to speak to your legal representative or a member of the court staff in the court reception prior to the hearing.

To try and help relieve some of this possible stress it is important that during a remote hearing you make sure of the following:

  • You are alone and do not have any other people in the same room as you during the hearing, also make sure no one can hear you that may be in the same house
  • Make sure that you do not record the hearing, this is a criminal offence
  • Make sure that your internet is working and your device is fully charged
  • If the hearing is via video make sure that you have a camera on your device
  • You should also be dressed formally, as if you were attending court in person
  • Try and have a plain background or blur your background
  • Do not speak over others and wait to be asked to speak by the Judge
  • Make sure you are somewhere quiet so the other attendees will be able to hear you

Remote hearings and the ability to carry out hearings remotely has become vital over the past year and it is unlikely this will be changing soon. It is important for us as solicitors as well as our clients to ensure that we both have the appropriate devices and technology in addition to understanding how to use the platform that the hearing is being carried out on. This can in turn mean that cases can progress and move forward as smoothly as possible in an unusual situation.

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