How to prepare for your remote family court hearing

Prepare for your family court hearing

Since the lockdowns began in March 2020, the majority of family hearings have taken place remotely.

Remote hearings are part of the Government’s response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19), and if your hearing is being held remotely it means you must not physically attend the court.

Your remote hearing may take place on Zoom or using the court’s secure video platform.  Some family hearings also take place by telephone.

To help you prepare for your remote hearing, I have compiled a list for you to refer to.

Make sure you have:

  1. A smartphone, computer or laptop
  2. Access to the internet/wifi
  3. Access to a quiet location or room where there are no distractions
  4. Made arrangements about how you will communicate with your McKenzie Friend during the hearing (remember, your McKenzie Friend will not be allowed to address the court, speak during the remote hearing or appear on camera, unless given permission to do so by the court)
  5. Tested the remote video system before the hearing, to make sure you have downloaded the app (if you are using a smartphone) and that you can access it
  6. All of the papers you need for your hearing
  7. Downloaded and printed out any electronic documents you need before your hearing begins

Be sure to tell the court:

  1. The email address you would like them to use, so that they can send you a link to the remote hearing and details of how to log in and use the secure video system
  2. The name of your McKenzie Friend (and the telephone number if it is a telephone hearing) – some courts are now also sending forms by email for McKenzie Friends to fill in before the hearing (but not all of them do so)
  3. About any special assistance or arrangements you may need, for example if you need an interpreter, or need help using the remote video system
  4. Before the day of the hearing, if you do not receive details about how to attend your remote hearing (I recently attended a remote hearing where the log in details were not sent until a few minutes before the hearing was due to take place)

Tips for remote hearings

Remember that:

  • You must attend your remote hearing; it may go ahead even if you fail to attend
  • You must not record or publish any part of the hearing
  • You should attend your hearing on time, as if you were physically attending the court
  • You will be kept in the online waiting area until the hearing begins, after you have logged into the remote video system (and depending on your settings, it may be possible for others on the video call to hear you)
  • Everyone on the video call can see you during the hearing
  • Remote hearings are to be treated in the same way as any hearings you would attend in court
  • You should check carefully the details and instructions from the court in relation to your remote hearing

Debbie – Going to Court Alone