Practical Tips for Attending a Remote Family Court Hearing
Guidance from the Family Court is that all hearings should now happen remotely by telephone or video conferencing. Specialist family law solicitor, Jen Pollock, shares her top practical tips for attending a remote hearing in the Family Court.
Consider whether the hearing can realistically go ahead
You will need to consult with your legal team to consider carefully whether the hearing is able to take place effectively. This will not be possible or appropriate in all family cases. For example, a lack of technology or the circumstances of the case could make proceeding with the hearing unjust.
Chose your location with care
Whether the hearing is taking place by video link or telephone you will need to ensure you can take the call in a quiet room. You must not be overheard or interrupted by other members of your household. Even if you are not required to address the Judge directly, family hearings often deal with confidential and sensitive issues and the Judge will want to be assured that privacy can be maintained.
Consider arrangements for children
If you have children in the household, you will need to consider how they can be cared for during the hearing. If you are living alone as a single parent this can be extremely difficult. If the hearing is short and the children are older you may be able to distract them in another room with a film or other activity for long enough to be able to attend the hearing. If the children are much younger or the hearing is lengthy and you are unable to arrange for someone else in your household to care for them, you may need to be excused from attending the hearing, or the hearing may need to be postponed.
Get the right tech set-up
It can often be difficult to hear all the participants in a telephone hearing clearly, especially if there is background noise in your house. Plugging your phone or computer into a set of headphones will help you hear more clearly, and will also prevent the call being overheard by other members of your household. You should also consider muting your microphone when you aren’t talking and silence other devises that might be a distraction in the background.
It can be difficult to know when it is your turn to talk when you cannot read the Judge’s or advocates’ body language. That being said, the general rules of Court room etiquette still apply so make sure that you do not interrupt the Judge or another person whilst they are speaking and make sure that you remain polite and courteous at all times.
Don’t record the hearing
It is contempt of court to record any court hearing!
Make arrangements in advance for communicating with your legal team during the hearing
If you are represented during the hearing you will need to ensure that you have agreed how you can contact your solicitor or barrister during the hearing. I always suggest that clients sit at their computer so they can email me with any comments or concerns during the hearing.
Have essential documents to hand
I send all my clients a copy of the Electronic Court Bundle. This incorporates all of the essential case documents that will be seen by the Judge, in advance of the hearing. This Bundle will be referred to by the Judge and legal team during the hearing and having a copy open on your computer will mean that you can follow what is going on more easily.
Get the right support
Family hearings can be difficult and emotional. Prior to lockdown I would often suggest to clients that they bring a close friend or family member on the day of a court hearing to wait outside and offer them support during breaks. As this is not possible for most people during lockdown I suggest you set up a call with a friend or family member following the hearing so that you are not dealing with this entirely by yourself.
Specialist family lawyers
Don’t forget we are here for you, to advise, represent and support you through your case. To contact our team of specialist family lawyers in Bristol or London, please call 0117 906 9400 or email email@example.com