The Family Court has been slowly moving into the 21st Century. It has been possible to e-file certain documents and applications for some time. Most recently, litigants in person have been able to file a divorce petition online.Covid-19 has changed all our lives and the Family Courts are no exception. Until now remote hearings were rare and Zoom hearings unheard of. That is all about to change. From this week the Central Family Court (and most family courts around the country) will conduct all hearings remotely unless it is absolutely necessary for the parties to attend in person. Whilst applications and directions hearings can be conducted remotely with ease, it is arguable that hearings where parties give evidence are less effective. Body language can play an important part in our perception and that can impact on the weight attached to the evidence given. It will be interesting to see whether the Family Court continues to use remote hearings once the Covid-19 pandemic is over. I for one hope so.
The current national public health emergency requires all financial remedy cases to be heard remotely unless personal attendance is absolutely unavoidable in the interests of fairness and justice. The court must prioritise urgent cases and those involving vulnerable parties.