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Efforts to stifle the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19), and of course to protect family and friends, have caused nationwide disruption. The President of the Family Division and the Head of Family Justice, Sir Andrew McFarlane, has issued guidance to the Family Court about to how to ‘Keep Business Going Safely’ in light of the current health emergency. While some people will find that their hearings have been adjourned, others will find that they are asked to attend remotely, and some will be asked to attend Court in person. The salient detail is that your family law proceedings are very likely to continue throughout this difficult time.
Remote Hearings may be held across a variety of mediums, and it will be up to the discretion of the Court which it thinks is appropriate for any given case. This might include: email between the Court and the Parties; telephone conference call; skype (or other similar software); or any other form of remote communication.
You may be told your matter will be conducted remotely if it is one of the following types of Hearing:
- First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointments
- Dispute Resolution Appointments
- Other interim Hearings
- Simple short contested matters
- Injunction applications where there is no – or limited – evidence to be heard
- Most financial Hearings
If your hearing is not included in this list, the current guidance is that a short Directions Hearing should be listed to determine how best to proceed in a manner that is fair and just, whilst still protecting the safety of the parties and the public. You may be asked to attend in person if this is unavoidable, although Sir Andrew McFarlane has said that ‘recent experience has demonstrated that it is possible to conduct a complicated extensive multi-party hearing’ via video-link.
The situation is evolving rapidly and we are monitoring it closely. If you would like personal advice about your specific matter, please ring 024 7663 2121 and ask for a member of the Family Team, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.