The answer is yes, albeit from behind closed doors for now. The Covid-19 pandemic has certainly been a challenge for the Courts and Court users, particularly as lock down came into effect so suddenly. However, the Courts rose to the challenge and very quickly implemented a system to enable remote hearings to take place. Traditionally, the Court has been a place of face to face hearings but, thanks to technology, hearings are taking place by IT platforms such as Zoom, BT Meet Me or Skype for Business. These are usually organised by the Court; it will be a matter for the Judge to decide his/her preferred platform. This has not been without initial teething problems but we are all growing accustomed to this new way of working and hearing are taking place effectively.
The Court will deal with applications according to the urgency of the case. Some are urgent, such as injunctions where there are allegations of harm, or child abduction cases, or interim maintenance cases. We are e-filing such applications to the Court which are then allocated to the appropriate Judge with impressive efficiency. The Court will continue to prioritise such urgent cases. If you think you are at risk, do not delay contacting us as we and the Court can still help.
Some cases which are less urgent will be dealt with when it is possible, although there may be some delay.
Other cases, such as divorce and financial matters, may have to wait a little longer. Again, do not delay seeking help with us until the pandemic is over as we can still help; the sooner we hear from you, the sooner we can prepare and submit your application to the Court.
Where hearings do take place remotely by Zoom or a similar platform, each party to the proceedings and their legal representatives will be joined to the “hearing” in turn. Although this may seem more informal, these are still legal proceedings and protocol must still be followed. No unauthorised person must be able to overhear the hearing at any time. You may be asked to confirm that no unauthorised person is in attendance or able to listen to the hearing.
As lock down is eased slightly, the Courts are now moving towards having some attended hearings. A one way system has been put in place and there will be breaks every hour for handwashing. There will also be “hybrid hearings” where the witnesses come to the Court to give evidence and all other parties are continued to attend remotely.
These are unprecedented times with new ways of working, and justice is still being done thanks to the Courts and the hard working Court staff. Do not put off making contact with us. The Wards Family Team is here, behind closed doors for the time being, but ready to help with your family enquiries.
Wards Solicitors has a highly experienced team of eight family and divorce law specialist solicitors ready to help across 11 local offices. We offer telephone meetings and where appropriate, free initial discussions of up to 30 minutes.
For more information, please contact Louise Boustead, Family Law Partner in our Yate office on 01454 316789 / email firstname.lastname@example.org, or one of our Family & Divorce solicitors local to you.