The Family Court remains open during the pandemic. However, the majority of court hearings have now moved out of the courtroom, and are now taking place remotely.
The majority of these court hearings are taking place either via online video conference, using Skype for Business or a telephone conference call.
How does this work in practice?
The decision as to whether to use video conference or telephone conference will depend on whether all the people involved in the hearing have access to a computer with a webcam. If a video conference can take place, your solicitor or the Family Court will make arrangements to set up the video call and you will be provided with a link to click to access to the court hearing at the relevant time. If you do not already have Skype for Business installed on your computer, you will need to install the Skype meetings app on your device, which is free of charge. You will then receive a link to click to join the hearing as a guest.
If a telephone hearing takes place, the Family Court is equipped with telephone conferencing facilities. The judge with conduct of the hearing will telephone each attendee in turn until all the relevant parties are listening in to the call. The hearing will then take place on the telephone. The court uses BT Meet Me to arrange these conference telephone calls. You do not need any special equipment to attend a BT Meet Me hearing.
The same rules apply to Family Court hearings online as they did when they took place in person. In the event that you are having a video hearing, you should dress as if you were attending court, and ensure that you will not be disturbed during the process. The Family Court will also check that you are not recording the hearing, as this would be in contempt of court. You should ensure that you are familiar with how to use your mute button.
If a telephone hearing is to take place, you will receive a telephone call from the court on your chosen telephone number at the time of the hearing.
Our office remains fully operational during the Coronavirus Crisis lockdown.
Visit our Coronavirus COVID-19 Family Law Resource Centre to get free and recently updated knowledge relating to family law issues in the current crisis.