Remote hearings, their use and practical information

Wednesday 19th May 2021

The acceleration of the pandemic in March 2020 meant that new approaches to working needed to be used and used quickly.  One change in family law saw the use of remote hearings as although we were told to stay indoors, the wheels of justice were still turning. 

What is a remote hearing?

Prior to March 2020, if you were directed to attend at the Family Court then this would see you travel to Court, speak with your solicitor or barrister in advance and then go and see the Judge.  That changed and now hearings are remote hearings which, simply, are ones which are conducted using video or phone calls.  Commonly Microsoft Teams, Zoom and the Court’s own Cloud Video Platform is used.

How do I prepare for a remote hearing?

Remote hearings are the same as a hearing you would attend at Court and the same rules apply.  What this means is that you should be in a quiet space in your home where you will not be disturbed or overheard by anyone. If you do not live alone, you should let the people who live with you know that you cannot be interrupted during the hearing. It is also a criminal offence to record any part of the hearing.

Relevant documents required for the hearing will be contained within the court bundle, a copy of which you can obtain from your solicitor. 

How will the family court ensure I am kept safe during a hearing?

If you are a victim of domestic abuse, there is specific guidance to protect you.  Commonly this will include blurring your background, using audio only and to leave your camera off or the camera of the other party is turned off.  If you are represented and the hearing is not one that requires evidence to be given, then the court may excuse your attendance.

How do I access hearings?

If the hearing is a phone hearing, pass your number to the Court and it will organise the hearing and call you a few minutes in advance.  If you are represented, ask your solicitor to pass on your number to the Court. 

If the hearing is a video hearing the court will send you an email with the information you need to access the hearing.  If you are represented, your lawyer will receive the link on your behalf, and will forward this on to you prior to the hearing.  On the day of the hearing, simply click the link at the time of your hearing.

The future?

It is difficult to accurately predict the future of course, but it does appear as if remote hearings will be here to stay.  For some instances they do not seem appropriate (for instance where major or final decisions are being made) however certainly there are some advantages.  It will ultimately be a decision for the Court and the particular Judge as to how any hearing will proceed.