Prior to the pandemic, virtually all family hearings took place in person at court.
The courts have had to adapt very quickly to the new ways of working and as such, they have introduced remote and paper hearings to minimise attendance at court.
A remote hearings take place by telephone or video. The parties and their legal representatives are not required to attend court in person.
The court papers, namely the Notice of Proceedings, will clearly confirm whether the hearing will be remote, in person or on paper.
It is very important to provide your contact details and the contact details of any legal representatives to the court as soon as possible.
For video hearings, you will receive an email from the court approximately 1 day prior to the hearing with a video link and joining instructions. It is very similar to joining a Microsoft Teams or Zoom meeting.
At the start of the remote hearing, you will be asked to confirm that you are alone and not recording the hearing. You will also be asked to place yourself on mute if you are not speaking.
You should wear smart clothes as if you were attending the hearing in person.
If you are representing yourself, you should ensure that you have easy access to the court papers.
For telephone hearings, the court will call you at approximately the start time of the hearing. The court often uses a ‘withheld’ or ‘private number’ so it is recommended that you are available up to one hour before and one hour after the start time of the hearing in case there are delays.
For both video and telephone hearings, you are usually allowed to file a short two page document called a position statement beforehand.
Paper hearings are increasingly common for the First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA) in private children proceedings.
A paper hearing does not require you to attend in person or by video/telephone. Instead the hearing will involve the judge reviewing the court papers and making directions (instructions) as to what further evidence is needed before another hearing can take place.
If you are given notice of a paper hearing, you should prepare a short position statement summarising your case and the points which you want the court to address.
Some court hearings are continuing to take place in person due to the seriousness of the circumstances, such as a final hearing in care proceedings. If you require a hearing in person due to a vulnerability which would impact your ability to participate in the proceedings effectively, you should contact the court as soon as possible.
If you have received notice of a hearing and would like to discuss what options are available, please contact Stephanie Vyas in our Family Team.