You may be concerned about how your Court case in the Family Court will be affected during the Coronavirus pandemic. It is important that you still have access to the justice system during this unprecedented time.
Will I have to attend Court?
Wherever possible Court Hearings will take place as listed but are likely to take place remotely either via telephone or video link to avoid physical attendance at Court. If your case is considered suitable to be dealt with by telephone or video link you will be contacted by the Court. This may be at short notice. Where physical attendance at Court is considered necessary for priority Hearings social distancing measures are in place but you should not attend Court if you are self-isolating.
What if I cannot attend Court?
If your physical attendance is still required at Court but you are unable to attend due to the Coronavirus (e.g. if you are self-isolating) you can request that your case be adjourned (i.e. moved to a later date) and a Judge will consider your request. The Judge may either adjourn the Hearing or make an Order that the Hearing takes place by telephone or video link if that is thought appropriate. In certain cases, the fee for an application to adjourn a Hearing will be waived.
How do remote Hearings work?
The Court Order will set out exactly what steps you need to take to set this up or take part. Teleconferencing is likely to take place using BTMeetMe and video conferencing is likely to take place using Skype or Video Cloud Platform. Further guidance can be found at:
What guidance is the Court giving?
The Courts are issuing operational guidance regularly about the way in which they are dealing with cases in the Family Courts. The Court’s current and previous operational guidance notes can be found at:
What changes have the Courts already made?
- Court work has been consolidated into fewer buildings.
- Courts are answering calls between set hours only (in the South East between 10am and 2pm).
- Accepting some documents by email – not all documents can be sent by email – see the guidance at https://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/email-guidance#canfile
- Sending Court Orders and other correspondence to parties by email.
- Producing a list of priority work. Work that must be done includes Emergency Protection Orders, Interim Care Orders, urgent children applications, Child Abduction Orders, Non-Molestation Orders (domestic abuse injunctions), urgent Divorce applications and applications for Decree Absolute. Work that the Court will do their best to do includes non-urgent children work, Adoption Orders and Financial Remedy (i.e. finances relating to Divorce).
Can I make an application digitally?
In some matters you can make an application digitally and those include Non-Molestation Orders (domestic abuse or violence injunction) if you do not have a solicitor acting for you, Child Arrangement Orders and Divorce.
Contacting the Court
When contacting the Court ensure you clearly state the names of the parties, case number, date of any Hearing and your contact details. This will enable the Court to deal with your matter as quickly as possible.
If you would like advice on family matters or any other issues please contact us to arrange a telephone/video appointment.
Please note the above is for information purposes only and is intended to be a short summary. It should not be treated as a comprehensive guide and should not be acted on without qualified legal advice.
Author: Alexandra Funnell. Co-Head of Family Department, Partner