Posted: 9th June 2020
Author: Kieran Brockerton-baker

UPDATE: The Family Court and Covid-19

The President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew MacFarlane has prepared an updated report on the Family Court system as we look forward to getting things back to “normal”.

The report titled “The Road Ahead” can be found here. The Road Ahead – President of the Family Division 9 June 2020

The report details ways in which the Court intends to “get back to normal” including;

  • Active thought must be given to lay parties being able to engage in the proceedings from a location other than at home.
  • Family Courts will be gradually reopening so that by early July, the Family Courts should be fully open for public use, however the impact of social distancing will remain for the foreseeable future.
  • Family Courts may well be required to use the facilities of the Criminal and Civil courts and tribunals to ensure that social distancing can take place
  • There will be a rise in the use of fee-paid judges to increase the resources of the Family Court in dealing with this changing landscape, and ensuring that the judges who need to remain working remotely can do so, and to deal with the current high volume of work that the Family Courts are seeing at present.

Despite these changes, it is expected and everyone should anticipate that these changes will be in place for the foreseeable future and it is extremely unlikely that things will go back to “normal” before the turn of the year.

Most notably,, the main change in the President’s guidance is that hearings that were previously deemed unsuitable for remote hearings are now likely to take place as “hybrid hearings”. This means some advocates attending court remotely, whilst others attend in person at Court. In particular this may be seen more often in Final Hearings or hearings where witness evidence is required.

The President makes reference to the song “He Ain’t Heavy” by The Hollies. Not all of us will remember this song however we hope that this will refresh your memory! As long as we all work together we will get there!