Representation is key during the pandemic where more courts offer remote hearings. In family law cases, following concerns raised in a new report about their use (and our similar experience), there are complex issues raised for divorce and family law hearings conducted remotely.
A report by the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory into the affect of remote hearings, following the introductions of measures as a result of COVID-19 raised a number of significant concerns.
The very lack of the availability of courts for face-to-face hearings and the rapidly changing and re-changing requirements of lockdown measures may require that your divorce case, finances, or child care arrangements actually require additional administrative hearings or amendments to court orders to take account of the current situation before the full case can be heard.
"It’s important to remember that you can get representation for a remote hearing, just as you would for an in-court hearing."
The report raised significant concerns about the fairness of remote hearings with some ‘worrying descriptions’ of the way some cases had been handled to-date with a lack of face-to-face contact and the difficulty of ensuring a party’s full participation during the call or video hearing.
With mixed responses most respondents had something positive to say about remote hearings and very few objected to remote hearings in principle: it is clear that they are here to stay. However it was clear the some hearings were more suitable than others.
In our experience it is not just the type of hearing but the nature of it, the factual background for your specific case that will determine whether or not it is suitable to be dealt with fairly as a remote hearing. We have found similar issues for remote hearings, and have experience persuading the court that sometimes a remote hearing is not suitable and which measures should be put in place to support our clients until the hearing can be conducted.
If it is an issue, it can be important for someone to raise these issues on your behalf, long in advance of any hearing. The situation and the courts’ rapidly changing approach and understanding as to the affect these hearings can be key. Another difficulty raised in the report was the client not being able to talk to their advocate during the call or video hearing, which means that as ever, preparation and in our experience professional help is again important.
It’s important to remember that you can get representation for a remote hearing, just as you would for an in-court hearing. Help and assistance as to whether a remote hearing is suitable for your case, whether court orders need to be amended to reflect current circumstances or whether additional applications will need to be made, are again best dealt with by professional advice.
Remote hearing are here to stay but that doesn't mean that 'going it alone' is your only option. The use of remote hearings at the moment varies widely and can have a significant affect on the outcome of your divorce or family law case. Getting help with drafting, preparation and representation is vitally important.