Family Court and the added strains since Lockdown –

The court process is stressful at any time, and there are many reasons which have led to an application being filed with the court relating to a family matter but lockdown really has made it very difficult for some people. Some reports have even shown that people consider a hearing to be wrongly ordered or they were unable to get their point across in the same way as a face to face hearing.

The Pandemic has meant that all but a small amount of hearings have being conducted remotely. This means that a telephone hearing has been organised which would require both parties to entered on a call by a third-party company and then wait until the Judge is dialled in.

This has led to certain issues such as victims being left on the same line with a perpetrator while they wait, or even a complete stranger being dialled into a call, or sadly a Judge being forced to make an Order to take a child into care. Things have been difficult and although the above are merely a snippet of some errors that have been made, everyone concerned have tried their best to accommodate in these unprecedented times. Some urgent cases have in fact been safely heard at some priority courts and others have been conducted over video-link. These efforts have left some professionals feeling that a large number of cases were wrongly heard by way of telephone or video and considered then to be clearly too sensitive for such methods.

There were some positive outcomes from this new approach to dealing with hearings. A court hearing would usually be held in a courtroom or at the very least a room where all parties can engage fairly in dealing with a matter. Some issues that have arisen since 2010 is the closure of 164 Magistrates Courts, 90 County Courts, 17 Family Courts and 8 Crown Courts by the Ministry of Justice, so distance is an issue for some people such as some parties not needing to travel great distances for a hearing when the it can be done remotely, which saves a lot of stress and time and can also mean that more hearings can be heard if one clicks out and the other clicks in more smoothly. There were also some domestic abuse victims which have claimed that the remote hearing was less invasive and less daunting for them to handle after such a terrible ordeal.

Does this mean that the future regarding how a hearing is conducted may change forever? Of course, we could not know at present, but some ironing out would have to be considered. An example other than issues raised above have be when those who do not have internet, adequate technology or even appropriate private space to be involved in the hearing.

If you have been forced to take part in a hearing remotely and feel that it was not fairly or a decision was made which you wish to appeal or have a judgment set aside because you were unable to advocate your point correctly then contact us and we will review your matter. Every effort would have been made by the judiciary to be fair and just but there may have been times out of control of the system that led to a different order being given.

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