Remote family law hearings - for better or for worse? - Boodle Hatfield

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Article
06 Nov 2020

Remote family law hearings – for better or for worse?

2 min read

Many would say that there are significant benefits to remote hearings not least that they often result in a saving in time and money. Physical hearings often involve longer delays outside the Court door and require parties and their legal teams to travel to Court. 

However, many parents have reported that remote hearings are resulting in injustices when determining arrangements in relation to their children. Given that the children's welfare is the Court's paramount concern, this is a significant worry. The most senior judge in the Family Court, Sir Andrew MacFarlane, has summed it up aptly, "a major part of being a family judge is to empathise with the human beings at the centre of the case," he says. "And it's very difficult to do that even across a video link, very hard over a phone."

Whilst there is certainly a place for remote hearings, particularly in relation to administrative hearings, nothing can replace a Judge's ability to look both parties in the eye in their Court room. With the forthcoming lockdown, it is vital that the requirement to progress cases is finely balanced with the need to ensure that parties feel they are being heard and that justice takes place.

 

Many parents involved in family court hearings are having to participate by phone and some say they cannot follow what is happening, according to a survey. Since lockdown eased the Family Court has been holding remote or hybrid hearings, where only a handful of people are in court and the others join by phone or video link.

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