Since the start of the pandemic, family law and divorce cases have moved out of the court room and onto video calls and telephone conferences. These are sometimes called remote hearings, virtual hearings or online hearings.
Different family courts use different platforms, but the hearings usually take place on either Cloud Video Platform (CVP), Microsoft Teams or Zoom. The telephone conferences take place via BT Meet Me, which involves the court telephoning all the participants for a conference call.
The court requires participants to send in their contact information in advance of the hearing. We will provide this information to the court on behalf of our clients.
If you are taking part in a video court hearing, you will receive a link to the proceedings in advance of the start time of the hearing. When you join at the time of the hearing, you will find yourself in a waiting area until the hearing is started by the court.
The online court hearing looks like a standard video call, with each person attending the hearing appearing in their own box on the screen. The court will ask whether you can be overheard or for you to confirm that you are not recording the proceedings.
It is not possible for us to communicate with our clients during the hearing via the court’s video call, as this is visible to everyone taking part. During court hearings before the pandemic, we would be able to ask our clients whether there was anything else that they would like us to say to the court about their case. Now that hearings are online, we ask those questions remotely. To do this, we will set up a group chat on chat software such as WhatsApp or Signal, so that there is an open channel of communication with our clients during the hearing.
A few key points of advice on remote hearings
- (i) check and double check that you have a reliable Wi-Fi connection from the location where you are connecting to the hearing
- (ii) the CVP links have a test link for you to check that you are able to access the hearing, so try this before the hearing
- (iii) when you copy the CVP link into a browser, use Google Chrome
- (iv) remember to mute yourself, once you are in the remote court room
- (v) ensure that no other household members enter the room where you are taking part in proceedings
- (vi) you need to be in the waiting room by the time that your hearing is due to start, but be aware that you may remain in the waiting room for a considerable time, depending on the other business of the court that day.