The current guidance from the Court has set out that where possible hearings will become telephone or Skype hearings. Judges are being encouraged to be pragmatic in terms of the effect of coronavirus on cases and where parties are able to agree how to progress matters by way of a Consent Order to approve those orders. The Court are discouraging physical documents being filed at Court and encouraging e-filing. Where possible Judges are being encouraged to work from home. The Court will communicate to the parties about each hearing ahead of the hearing date so if you do not hear from the Court you should assume that your hearing remains listed as planned.
For Financial Remedy Cases there is a hearing known as an FDR (Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing). The Court has encouraged parties to have those hearings privately. This means that the parties jointly instruct and fund an expert barrister to act as their Judge to provide the indication that is received at those hearings and for the parties to then, hopefully, settle their case. This will help decrease the number of individuals attending at Court. Because the hearing is in private it can be done in a solicitors office or the barristers chambers. We regularly assist our clients with private FDRs and can provide advice and representation as required.
The Court guidance has also set out for those attending Court that:
As long as you, or the people who are coming to court with you, do not have confirmed or possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection and do not need to self-isolate in line with NHS advice, you should continue to use courts and tribunals as usual.’
Therefore if you do not have coronavirus (COVID-19) and you are not self-isolating, you can proceed as normal. If you do have any concerns or are self-isolating then we are able to assist you in communicating with the Court about what arrangements can be made regarding your hearing. This could involve the hearing being relisted or occurring via telephone or video-link.
The Court have also changed their security rules and you are now allowed to bring hand sanitiser into Court, although you will be asked to use it upon arrival to demonstrate that it is not a harmful substance.
At Watson Thomas our staff can work from home and access all systems so even if all are required to self-isolate this will not affect the day-to-day running of your case. We can also hold appointments via telephone and video link as needs be to ensure that your service is not interrupted.
We will keep abreast of the coming changes and adapt to enable your case to progress as smoothly as possible. If you have any concerns please do not hesitate to call the office 01252 622422.