Since the first confirmed COVID-19 death in the UK on March 5th, the Coronavirus has rapidly changed the way people and businesses interact and there is no exception for the legal profession.
On the 19th March, British Judge and President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew MacFarlane suggested a significant change in direction in how the Family Court will function during this time of uncertainty.
As default, Family Court hearings will be undertaken remotely via; email, telephone or video/Skype. Each case will be reviewed to see if physical attendance is required as a necessity, and all remote hearings must ensure that they have the capacity to record hearings.
Case-specific factors will determine whether a remote hearing is feasible. Suitable categories include:
- All directions and case management hearings
- Emergency protection orders
- Interim care orders and injunction applicants where there is limited evidence to be heard
Even in emergency cases, provisions should be made for the trial to be conducted remotely. If a case is genuinely urgent, and it is not possible to conduct a remote hearing, the court will endeavour to conduct the hearing face-to-face. This will be carried out in a way that will limit the chance of infection for all parties involved.
If the case cannot be listed for a remote hearing, and it isn’t an emergency, the case must be adjourned and listed as soon as possible for a directions hearing, which can be completed remotely.
The aim of these directions is to identify the best possible way of conducting the court process, in order to achieve a fair outcome in a timely manner, whilst minimising the chance of infection through personal contact.
The guidance indicates a significant change of direction in the way Family Court proceedings are conducted, that will enable us to continue to operate and meet the needs of those who rely on the Court for protection and justice.
If you have any questions at all on how this may affect you, please do not hesitate to contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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