7 April 2020

Guidance on Remote Family Hearings

In these difficult and unprecedented times, we are all working together to ‘Keep Business Going Safely’. President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane, has stated “There is a strong public interest in the Family Justice System continuing to function as normally as possible despite the present pandemic but there is a need for all reasonable and sensible precautions to be taken to prevent infection and, in particular, to avoid non-essential personal contact.”

(https://www.judiciary.uk/announcements/covid-19-national-guidance-for-the-family-court-message-from-president-of-the-family-divison/).

This guidance provides for interim measures to be adopted by the courts, as well as professionals and clients, to prevent the spread of the virus and it is subject to constant changes in order to adhere to government’s guidelines.

At the time of writing, in order to avoid disrupting or hindering ongoing proceedings, all Family Court hearings should now be carried out by telephone or video link. The introduction of these measures is to ensure the safety of everyone involved in Family Proceedings and without doubt puts the technology that has for so long been available to us to test.

Some hearings are eligible to be conducted remotely. For those which provided for parties to attend Court before the emergency status, where it is possible, the following steps must be taken:

  1. Agree and draft a directions order;
  2. File electronically with the Court, by including in the subject line:
    1. URGENT;
    2. COVID19;
    3. Case number;
    4. Hearing date
  3. Provide the parties’ telephone numbers and a request to be contacted, in order to liaise with the judge’s clerk to arrange the logistics.

Immediately after the guidance was published, the Family lawyers at Howell Jones have already taken part in a remote hearing and witnessed the court’s functional and effective response to a crisis. The new procedure allowed parties to resolve matters both efficiently and safely, regardless of the already stressful experience they were going through.

Naturally, hiccups may arise during a remote hearing, such as the telephone line dropping, but rest assured that the judge’s clerk will call you back immediately upon you notifying them by email.

Given the time you will most likely be spending on the phone during the hearing, you may wish to make sure that your phone is fully charged, but other than that, it is business as usual!

The implementation of our contingency plans means that we can continue to operate without disruption. Our staff working at home have all they need to ensure that our work continues. You are welcome to contact us by phone or e-mail. We are happy to talk to you by Facetime, WhatsApp video messaging or Skype for Business and all our lawyers can be contacted directly.

We will endeavour to continue offering the high standard of service which is our norm and to support you during these difficult times, so please feel free to contact us and we will do our very best to help and advise you.

our lawyers deliver an excellent quality service, independently recognised by The Law Society and our many returning clients.

important notice

Howell Jones solicitors remains open for business during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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