The Courts continue to review the Court list for all family hearings that are due to take place over the next few weeks to determine which hearings must go ahead without delay. They will be prioritising the hearings where the safety and welfare of children are of concern but so far, our experience has been that the Courts are continuing with most hearings without issue by way of telephone conferencing (mainly BT Meet Me) and video conferencing (mainly Teams and the court’s own Cloud Video Platform). With the preference being video conferencing wherever possible for Financial Remedy Proceedings. For more information in relation to telephone and video conferencing at Court during the crisis follow this link – https://www.gov.uk/guidance/hmcts-telephone-and-video-hearings-during-coronavirus-outbreak.
Unless you hear from us to the contrary, you should presume that your hearing is going ahead as planned.
The format of each hearing is being considered by the Court on a case by case basis. Most hearings are being undertaken by telephone conference or video conference but this will depend on your case. If you are self-isolating and your hearing is taking place by way of video or telephone conference and the Court / Judge is happy for you to dial in separately, then you can still attend the hearing remotely. If this is not possible then we will notify you and we will remotely attend the hearing on your behalf and ask that you are by the phone, ready, in case we need to take additional instructions from you. If the hearing requires all parties’ physical attendance at Court and your attendance in person is requested from the Judge, then no, you can’t attend. You must contact your solicitor immediately who will talk you through the process and the documentation that the Court may require and will inform the Court of the circumstances.
Yes. Children can move between households if they are under 18 years old and need to move between separated parents, provided this is done safely and subject to any high-risk measures for anyone in the vulnerable category. The Courts are asking parents to take a common-sense approach and work together during these unprecedented times. The original guidance from the President of the Family Court issued at the time of the initial lockdown remains valid – read that guidance here:-
The guidance does not change depending on what Tier you or your child is in. In other words, children moving between separated parents for contact, remains an exemption to the rules on the limits of travelling, gathering and socialising in all tiers.
The same exemption does not apply in this scenario. If a parent or child has tested positive for Covid 19, or has come into close contact with someone with Covid 19, they are required to self-isolate. The same applies when travelling back to the UK from abroad. The Regulation (Regulation 2 of the Health Protection Coronavirus Regulations 2020) does NOT list visiting a parent whom a child does not usually live with as a reason why a person self-isolating may leave their house, the requirement to self- isolate takes precedence over normal contact arrangements.
If a parent or child is medically considered high-risk then the government advice is for them to self-isolate. The Court has made it clear that the parents need to take a sensible approach to this and if one parent is sufficiently concerned that complying with the arrangements would put them or the child at risk, then the parents should look to agree on a variation to the arrangements, that they consider being safe for everyone.
Where movement between households is not possible due to self-isolation, it is clear that there is an expectation from the Court that parents should make alternative arrangements, such as Face Time, WhatsApp Face Time, Skype, Zoom etc….
That doesn’t mean to say that a parent can use this current situation to their advantage without recourse from the Courts. The Court has also made it clear that if a parent tries to use the COVID-19 Pandemic and the governments’ advice as a ‘weapon’ to strop contact or alienate a parent, this will be dealt with robustly and the Court.
Key Message from the Court –: where Coronavirus restrictions cause the letter of a court order to be varied, the spirit of the order should nevertheless be delivered by making safe alternative arrangements for the child.
There is a wealth of further guidance available on this topic from government sources including this helpful document – the House of Commons Briefing Paper – “Coronavirus: Separated Families and Contact with Children in Care FAQ’s” – see the link below
As well as from the Child and Family Court Advice and Support Service (Cafcass) – see this link below
Yes, absolutely. We are continuing business as usual and the Court continue to process all Divorce Petitions and Applications as usual. Both the Court and ourselves have invested in excellent levels technology to ensure that we can continue to work through this current period, without issue or delay.
Absolutely not. It is business as usual. The Court are now, and to a large degree, have already made arrangements for a large number of hearings to be heard remotely. We continue to issue proceedings, file documents and ensure we can comply with all court directions and orders. If your case requires the instruction of a Barrister, then rest assured, they are just as prepared and ready for your upcoming hearings.
If you have any further questions arising from these points or for any other queries relating to family matters call us now or contact us using our online form and we will help you through this difficult time.
Please submit your information and a member of the Poole Alcock team will respond to you as soon as possible. If you have a quick question, please feel free to call 0800 389 7093.