A recent article by Nuffield Family Justice Observatory highlights a very real concern regarding remote Family Court hearings.
It has been my experience since the first lockdown in March 202 - that remote hearings in the Family court are more likely to work well when the hearings are purely administrative. Dealing with the finances, first appointments or interim direction appointments, has worked very well - despite being dealt with remotely.
I agree, unfortunately, with the report findings that Financial Dispute Resolution appointments (FDR's), final hearings etc. are better dealt with in person. It is unfair on the parties who have had a long, emotional and expensive journey to be met with disappointment after such an arduous process. This clearly needs addressing.
The same applies to children matters.
Nuffield's survey, which was undertaken across England and Wales by more than 3200 practitioners, professionals, parents and other family members, highlights the challenges which parties are facing. In many cases the parties are unrepresented and are often out of their depth whilst at the same facing great emotional upheaval in their personal life.
The report, highlighting the current challenges is extremely welcome and we hope that the views of those who have taken part in this survey and have shared their experiences of the family court over the last year, will have an impact and will result in changes being implemented by the President of the Family Division.
Let's watch that space...
Nearly two thirds of professionals responding to a new survey felt that more needs to be done to ensure that remote hearings – now commonplace in the family court because of COVID-19 – were fair and worked smoothly.