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Many Family Court hearings are now taking place remotely. Managing new technology alongside any anxiety relating to the hearing itself can make this an especially daunting prospect for litigants in person, who do not have a legal representative to provide practical support during the hearing process. Apprising yourself of the process and being fully prepared for the hearing can go a long way to alleviate the stress of this.
Remote hearings can take place by telephone or using video conferencing software. You will be notified by the court that the hearing will proceed remotely and invited to confirm that you are able to join in this manner, and to provide appropriate contact details. The court will explain the arrangements, including timings and exactly how to join the hearing. If you are unable to join the hearing remotely you should advise the court as soon as possible so that alternative arrangements can be put into place.
Before the hearing date, you should check that you have the correct equipment and software to join the hearing. This might include downloading and familiarising yourself with video conferencing software, ensuring that your internet connection is reliable or that you have good mobile reception where you intend to join the hearing from, and fully charging your device. Prepare your documents well in advance of the hearing and have them ready – either in hard copy or electronically – for when you join.
On the day of the hearing, you should ensure that you have a designated space from which to join. This should be private and quiet, with as little background noise as possible, and without distractions. For video hearings, you should dress as if you were attending the hearing in person, and try to have a plain background behind you, and the light in front of you so as not to cast shadows that mean you cannot properly be seen. You may wish to have a practice call with a friend or family beforehand. Have your charger close to hand in case you need to connect your device during the hearing. You may wish to take notes and have a pen and paper to hand. Should you be joining by telephone, you could consider using the speaker function so that you have your hands free to make notes at the same time as listening to proceedings.
You should communicate to anyone who shares your space that you will need to be uninterrupted whilst attending the hearing and, if possible, arrange childcare so that you can give the hearing your full, undivided attention. The court will have provided details as to how to join the hearing; if it is via telephone you will receive a call from the court or a conference provider, and if it is via video conference you will have received email details on how to join. Technical support for joining hearings is available from the HM Courts and Tribunals Service on 0330 808 9405.
The Judge may, at the start of the hearing, ask you to confirm that there are no unauthorised persons that might be able to hear proceedings. This is because, generally, Family Court proceedings are confidential and private, with the stipulation that only authorised persons – such as the parties, the court, and legal representatives – may be in attendance. Should you be providing evidence at a hearing, you will be asked to give an affirmation or oath to promise that your evidence is truthful. If you are giving an oath on a holy text, you should have a copy of this with you when you join remotely.
During the hearing, keep your video on at all times (remembering that this means you can be seen by other participants throughout), but mute yourself when not speaking. Communicate any difficulties, such as interruptions, technical issues, or the need for a short break to the court. It is imperative that you treat the court, the other side and anyone else in attendance with respect. This includes not interrupting others when they are speaking – the court will ensure that everyone is given an opportunity to speak.
You cannot record the hearing: it is a criminal offence to do so without permission from the court. The court will make a recording and you will, if you so wish, be able to apply for a transcript.
For further information and advice on this issue, and other family law issues, please contact us for a free initial consultation on 01992 306 616 or 0207 956 2740 or email us.Back to Law Articles