In recent blogs, ‘Technology and the Family Court System’ part 1 and part 2, we have detailed how the Family Court have continued to work remotely during the COVID-19 lockdown periods. – This involves judges conducting hearings by telephone, Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
Family lawyers generally feel steps taken to ensure access to representation and a fair hearing are adequate. However, many parents involved in remote family court hearings, particularly those conducted by phone, say they cannot follow what is happening and that they are denied a fair hearing.
Concerns have been raised, particularly in relation to proceedings involving the removal of children from their parents care by a Local Authority, that parents can lack the access to technology and are left without appropriate support after decisions involving their children are made.
The Nuffield Family Justice Observatory conducted a review for the Head of the Family Courts in September 2020. This review identified that most professionals including lawyers and judges believe that the system is working relatively smoothly.
However, the majority of parents involved in the study said that they had to participate by phone and that they could not follow what was going on in the hearing.
The report can be accessed here
The issues highlighted are a cause for concern, as it is important that Court users – particularly when decisions concerning children are made – feel that they have a fair hearing, and that judges can explain the process.
Also, concerns have been raised by parents that they cannot speak to their lawyers if the hearing is being conducted by phone and that this leaves them at a disadvantage.
The review also identified that for litigants in person, the problems were more acute given the shortage of support and lack of knowledge how to access it.
There has been some discussion that any hearing, other than those that are purely administrative should take place via a Cloud Based Video format either Zoom or Microsoft Teams
Here at Price Slater Gawne, all our family team have had experience of dealing with remote hearings during lockdown. It is our view that remote hearings will be the normal way of working for some time to come.
If you have a hearing scheduled in the family court relating to either children or divorce and finances that you need some help with or if there is any aspect of family court proceedings that you need to discuss, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Our expert solicitors have over 50 years combined experience and will ensure that your case is dealt with in a prompt, efficient and cost-effective manner.
Our offices remain closed for the time being but we can correspond with you by email and we can arrange interviews by phone, Teams, Facetime or Zoom.