When the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions were imposed in March it was really important to everyone working in the Family Justice System to ensure that Family Court hearings were managed and progressed. As early as the 23rd March 2020 the President of the Family Division had released guidance about how the Remote Family Court should operate.
At the current time, the majority of Court hearings are dealt with by way of telephone hearings. Every party to the case is entitled to participate in the Court hearing and it proceeds as if it were a hearing in a Courtroom, with the constraints of confidentiality. This has meant that cases can still progress and has kept delay to an absolute minimum, with priority given to progressing cases involving child protection and child arrangements.
Hearings that require evidence can be dealt with in a number of ways. Some are capable of being dealt with by telephone hearing but the majority will be by way of the new video link known as Cloud Video Platform (CVP), by attending Court in person or a ‘Hybrid’ hearing where some parties will attend Court and others will attend via CVP.
Courts across the region have implemented risk assessments to ensure that they are Covid-19 Secure and to allow a limited number of people to attend a hearing. This has to be agreed in advance and in most cases only the parties involved in the case and their legal representative can request permission to attend. The Family Court at Teesside has recently opened a number of ‘Nightingale Courts’ at Jury’s Inn Hotel and Middlesbrough Town Hall which has enabled more hearings to take place when only a limited number of Courtrooms can be used at the Combined Court.
It is expected that the current regime will remain in place until at least the Spring of 2021. Whether the system will evolve thereafter remains to be seen.
If you require assistance or advice with any current or potential Court applications in the Family Court do not hesitate to contact one of our experienced Family Solicitors