Solicitor Rebecca Ledgerwood, in our leading Family Law team, explains how the Family Courts are adapting in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and how to prepare for a virtual hearing.
As a result of COVID-19 and the Government’s guidelines, the Family Courts in England and Wales are currently adopting new methods to ensure that cases continue to be heard at a time where in-person hearings cannot be safely conducted.
As such, telephone and video hearings are becoming the ‘new normal’ and will likely be here to stay long after COVID-19.
Below are some helpful pointers to ensure you are ready for your remote hearing:
- You will be asked by the Judge to confirm that you are not recording the hearing and that you are in an area where no one else can hear the proceedings. You should therefore ensure that this is the case prior to the hearing. We suggest that you use headphones to reduce the possibility of the hearing being overhead and to reduce background noise. You should also arrange any necessary child care to avoid interruptions.
- Ensure that your device (telephone/laptop/tablet etc.) has sufficient battery to last throughout the hearing and/or you have a charger to hand.
- Ensure that you are located in an area with a good signal/internet speed.
- Familiarise yourself with any joining instructions the night before the hearing. You will then have sufficient time to ask any questions prior to the hearing.
- Prior to the hearing ensure that you are able to provide instructions to your legal team during the hearing. This may be via email/Whatsapp/video chat.
- You will not be able to leave a hearing once it commences. You should therefore have all items that you might need to hand – notepad and pen, drink, etc.
- Once the hearing commences, mute your device. This will ensure that no background noise is picked up and heard in the courtroom which can be very distracting.
In addition to the above you should also:
- Dress appropriately, as if you were in personal attendance at Court. The Judge and all others in attendance will be able to see you.
- Position yourself somewhere with a neutral background, if at all possible. The other attendees do not want to be distracted by what they can see behind you.
- Consider the use of two devices. This will enable you to have the Court hearing on one device and another line of communication open (e.g. Zoom or Microsoft Teams) with your legal team. It also reduces the risk of inadvertently communicating with everyone in the Courtroom instead of your legal team.
All hearings are tiring, but remote hearings can be particularly intense and exhausting due to the additional reliance on technology. Be prepared; have a drink to hand and somewhere comfortable to sit.
For further information or legal advice, please contact email@example.com or call 0118 951 6800.
This article is intended for the use of clients and other interested parties. The information contained in it is believed to be correct at the date of publication, but it is necessarily of a brief and general nature and should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific professional advice.