It is fair to assume that the process of a hearing can be somewhat daunting for the parties involved, particularly those unfamiliar with legal practice generally. This could perhaps be even more so in the family sphere, where matters are likely to carry increased emotion.

In light of the current pandemic, we also have an added complexity that currently the default position is hearings are taking place remotely. A smaller number of cases are being heard “in person” as a result of the need to comply with the Government’s current rules on safe working and social distancing. The President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane, confirmed that whether a remote hearing was suitable would depend on the specific facts in a case.

This article provides a brief overview of remote hearings and explains the different platforms that may be used.

Remote hearings take place outside of the court building in two main ways; via telephone or a video conference. Those involved will join the hearing using their phone or other device, such as a laptop or tablet. You or your solicitors will receive a notice from the court confirming how your hearing will take place, including the date and time.

The English courts are generally using the following methods:

BT Meet Me (telephone) – The court will phone you at the time of your hearing, possibly on an unknown number. You will hear a message saying that you are invited to join. To join, press the * key and number 1. Say your full name and then press the # key. You will then be joined to the hearing.

Skype for Business – You will need to provide your email address. You will be sent a link to join the hearing. If you cannot see the email, check your “junk” folder. Download Skype for Business. Click on the link in the email you received. You will be joining and a guest and then, when prompted, enter your full name. You will wait in the lobby area until you are invited by the chairperson to join. The chairperson will direct you to turn on your video or audio when required.

Cloud Video Platform (CVP) – You will need to provide your email address. You will be sent a web link to join the hearing. If you cannot see the email, check your “junk” folder. Download Google Crome. Copy the link you were sent via email into the browser. Type in your full name and click to connect with both audio and video. Enter the Pin provided in the email and click to connect. You will be placed in a waiting area until the hearing starts. The judge or magistrate will introduce themselves and explain how the hearing will proceed and what you need to do.

Further details can be found here.

You may not be able to participate in a remote hearing because, for example, you do not have access to a mobile or computer device. Alternatively, you may have no or limited internet access. If this is the case, you should inform the court at the earliest possible opportunity.

If you have instructed solicitors, they will make sure that everything is organised prior to your hearing. The exact way in which a remote hearing is carried out may differ slightly depending on the court, but your legal professionals will be able to adapt accordingly.

It is important to note that you should attend the remote hearing in a quiet and private space. Remote hearings will follow the same process as if it were being conducted in the court building.

At Parker Bullen LLP, we are committed to providing high client service standards. We fully appreciate that every family situation is different and needs to be dealt with according to what is suitable for the individuals involved.

We offer a free initial, no-obligation consultation. If you want to discuss your matter with one of our lawyers, please call us on 01722 412000 (Salisbury) or 01264 400500 (Andover).