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Guidance for litigants in person on remote hearings in the Family Court
  • Jul 15, 2020
  • Latest News

With the advent of the global pandemic hearings in the Family Court are increasingly being held remotely by telephone or on video conferencing software. This guide is designed to help you through the process and includes helpful information on how to prepare for the hearing, how to join a hearing and what to do during the hearing.

Your court hearing will take place remotely, without the need for you to go to a court building.

Remote hearings can take place by telephone or video. If you have received this guidance, it is because you have confirmed that you are able to take part via telephone or video using an electronic device (computer, laptop, tablet or smart-phone) and have provided your preferred contact details.

If that is incorrect, you must notify the court as soon as possible using the details provided in the hearing notice.

The court will appreciate that you do not have a legal representative and that you are having to deal with perhaps unfamiliar technology. This guidance is intended to help as much as possible with this process.
Before the hearing

Make sure you have somewhere quiet and private to join the hearing where you will not be interrupted or distracted. There should be as little background noise as possible. Let people who you share the space with know that you must not be interrupted. You may also wish to arrange childcare, if possible and try and ensure that pets cannot interrupt.

If the hearing is via video, then you will be asked to make sure you have the right equipment and software. Make sure you have a good internet connection and that your device is fully charged or plugged in. It may be a good idea to have your charger to hand.  Please see ‘Joining the hearing’ below for more detail.  Familiarise yourself with controls such as the mute/unmute button and volume controls.

If the hearing is by telephone, and you are using a mobile phone, make sure that you have good reception where you will be taking the call.  Again you will need to make sure you have plenty of charge.

If you do not have the necessary technology to access a telephone or video hearing, please let the Court and all other parties know as quickly as possible.

Family Court hearings are usually held in private and they are confidential, meaning that only the court, the parties, any legal representatives and any other authorised persons (such as a McKenzie Friend or interpreter) are allowed to take part. The Judge may ask you to confirm at the beginning of the hearing that there are no unauthorised persons with you or that can overhear the hearing.

You should make sure you have somewhere indoors to sit for the hearing and somewhere to take notes such as a desk or table.  You might want to have pen and paper to hand.  If you are connecting via a mobile phone, consider putting it on speaker phone, or use headphones so you can listen and make notes at the same time.

Have any documents you need for the hearing ready beforehand. This could be a paper bundle that you have in front of you, or an ‘e-bundle’ which could be accessed on another screen/device.

If you are not using it for the hearing, turn off your mobile phone or put it on flight mode so you do not get interrupted.

If the hearing is by video:

1, dress as if you were attending the court in person;
2, try to have a plain background behind you (such as a blank wall);
3, make sure you can easily be seen (i.e. you are not in shadow). It is a good idea to have the light in front of you;
4, try a test call to a friend or family member well beforehand.

If you are going to be giving evidence during the hearing, you will be asked to give an oath or affirmation to promise to tell the truth. If you are giving an oath on a holy text, you will need to make sure you have a copy of it with you beforehand.
Joining the hearing

You should be ready at least 15 minutes before the hearing is due to start.

There are a number of ways of joining a remote hearing:

If the hearing is taking place by telephone you will receive a call either directly from the court or from a conference provider such as BT Meet Me.

If the hearing is taking place by video then you will be emailed details about how that will work. The court uses its own Cloud Video Platform (‘CVP’) or a third-party host such as Skype for Business.

During the hearing

Do not record the hearing. It is a criminal offence to record court proceedings without permission. The court will make a recording and you can apply for a transcript  if necessary.

Court hearings are serious. All participants are expected to respect the court and each other, just as if you were present in a courtroom.

Do not interrupt participants when they are speaking. The court will ensure that everyone is given an opportunity to speak. Usually the court will start by explaining what will happen during the hearing then hear first from the person bringing the proceedings (the applicant), then from any other party or parties in turn (e.g. the respondent, the children’s guardian and so on).

When you’re talking, look into the camera instead of looking at yourself talking on the computer screen.

Interruptions happen. This might be a family member, perhaps a child, who enters the room during the hearing. If this happens, tell the court immediately.

If you have any technical difficulties or need a break, let the court know.  If you do not understand something, please ask for an explanation as it is important you know what is going on. If you lose connection, try to rejoin the hearing as quickly as possible and call the technical support line.

Mute your microphone when you are not speaking and remember to unmute it when you want to speak.

Unless told otherwise, keep your video on during the hearing. Remember that when your video is on you can be seen by all the other participants.  Do your best to ensure that your full face can be seen at all times.

Please don’t check or read emails or do other things while on the video call.

There are rules about what you can and can’t do in a court building and the same rules apply when you have your hearing remotely, so only drink water, do not eat, do not smoke or use e-cigarettes, do not leave during the hearing unless permitted to and always follow the court’s instructions.

We hope this information has been useful. It may be in your best interests to seek legal representation. All Resolution members are committed to working in a non-confrontational way and putting the needs of any children first. Use our search to find a Resolution professional near you.