Remote Family Court Hearings – How Does It Work?
As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, online remote hearings in family proceedings have become the preferred option. While restrictions are easing and in-person Court hearings have returned, remote court hearings are here to stay. Remote court hearings can be a more comfortable environment for many people, not to mention more convenient where you are not based in the UK. In this article, we look at how remote hearings in family law cases work and address some of the most common questions.
A remote hearing is a hearing which takes place online using modern technology, rather than in a court building. Typically, parties involved in a remote hearing can attend the hearing from their own home via a video conference or phone call.
While remote hearings are designed to keep everyone safe and make attending a hearing more straightforward, there are of course circumstances which may prevent you from attending a remote hearing, for example, lack of internet access. If you cannot attend your remote hearing, you should get in contact with the court as soon as possible, and they will try to help you resolve your issues. The judge will make a decision about whether the hearing will go ahead on the scheduled date or whether it should be adjourned.
If you are due to attend a family court hearing, the judge decides the hearing is to go ahead, and you do not attend the hearing, the court may make decisions without your input.
Attending a hearing can be stressful, but with a small amount of preparation, you can help to make the process run as seamlessly as possible. It is important to find a quiet space where you will not be disturbed and you cannot be overheard. You want to be free to discuss the important issues at play in your case. If you live with other people, you should make arrangements with them to ensure you are not interrupted.
While it sounds obvious, the stress of attending a family hearing may cause you to forget the basics. As a quick reminder, remember to check that your device is fully charged and plugged into a power source. We would advise that you mute your microphone during the hearing when you are not speaking to limit any background noise.
Your solicitor will provide you with a court bundle via email and you should have this to hand before the hearing starts. You may wish to print the bundle for easy access.
It is important to understand that besides being held online, remote hearings are almost exactly the same as in-person hearings. There are strict rules which apply to remote hearings and although you are in your own home, you must not eat, drink or smoke during the hearing.
If you have been a victim of domestic abuse, we understand that attending a remote hearing may be overwhelming. You should let the court know as soon as possible that you would like them to make arrangements for your safety. There is clear guidance for keeping victims of domestic abuse – whether the abuse has been proven in court or not.
The court may provide you with instructions on how to blur your background or enable a generic background which will prevent your abuser from identifying your location. You may also attend the hearing with your camera off and simply attend the hearing with audio only.
If you are giving evidence, the court may ask you to turn your camera on, but they may ask the other party to turn their camera off so that you cannot see them. If you are not giving evidence during the hearing because it is not required and you are represented by a lawyer, the court may excuse you from the remote hearing. In these circumstances, your lawyer will take instructions from you beforehand or over the phone.
In this challenging time, our specialist team of family law solicitors can offer you expert advice and representation when it comes to remote family law hearings. We understand this may be a stressful time for you, but we are here to guide you through. For an initial consultation, call the International Family Solicitors at IMD Solicitors on 0330 107 0107 or request a call back.
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.
Published by: Iwona Durlak
IMD Solicitors LLP