LEGAL EAGLE: How do I attend custody battle when we’re all in lockdown?
I recently split from the father of my 7 year old daughter and he issued Court proceedings at the start of the year for contact with our daughter.
We have been to one court hearing so far but the next court hearing is coming up soon. I’m really worried as I am classed as “extremely vulnerable” and under the current Government COVID-19 guidelines I am advised to remain at home until 30th June. I won’t be able to attend my court hearing. What can I do?
Since the beginning of lockdown in March, most family court hearings have been going ahead albeit such are conducted remotely. This means they are done either by video link or more often than not by telephone. This has removed the necessity for anyone needing to attend the court in person – in fact the Court buildings are actually shut.
Someone from the court (or those representing dad, if he is represented) should get in touch with you prior to your hearing. If you have not heard anything and your hearing is coming up, then you should contact the court to ask if your hearing is still going ahead.
You will need to provide your telephone number or email address to the court in order to participate in the hearing. Although your hearing will now be dealt with remotely, it is still a court hearing and so it should still be treated the same as a ‘normal’ hearing in person.
If your hearing is by telephone then this will usually be arranged by the court and they will call you so that you can take part. If it is going to take place by video, you will be sent instructions and a link to click to join.
It often takes a few minutes for everyone to join the hearing and at the start the Judge will likely
explain that the hearing is being recorded and that it is a criminal offence and a Contempt of Court to record the hearing. If you do progress to record the Hearing, and it is found that you are in Contempt of Court, this is an offence for which you can be fined, imprisoned, or both. The Court record all hearings themselves and therefore there is no necessity for you to do so. The judge might also check with everyone to make sure that they are on their own and somewhere private I.e. no one can overhear your conversation as essentially all family court hearings are confidential. Once these formalities have been completed, the hearing will then proceed.
If you feel that you still cannot join the hearing you need to tell the court about any difficulties that
may affect you. It will be up to the Judge in your case to decide whether it is fair and suitable for the hearing to be dealt with remotely and, if not, what the alternative arrangements might be.
If you would like to discuss your case with one of our family solicitors please contact Ben Hoare Bell LLP on 0191 565 3112 or email [email protected] Visit www.benhoarebell.co.uk for further information.