In a new publication entitled The Family Court and COVID 19: The Road Ahead, the President of the Family Division has outlined likely working conditions in the English and Welsh family court for the remainder of the year.

Sir Andrew McFarlane explained that judges and lawyers had gained valuable experience of operating courts remotely since the introduction of restrictions in March, and therefore:

“…We have reached a juncture in the Family Court’s journey through the COVID 19 crisis when it is both possible and necessary to take stock and to consider the road ahead. It is possible to do this because, in contrast to the early weeks, there is now a bedrock of experience of remote working.”

Hearings via telephone or video conferencing software have been the default approach since lockdown, unless doing so was likely to disadvantage one or both parties in the assessment of the Judge. More complex or contested cases have also been adjourned in many cases. These arrangements were examined and assessed in a report published by the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory in May.

According to Sir Andrew:

“It is necessary to look at the road ahead because any earlier rose-tinted thoughts that ‘this will all be over by July’ have sadly evaporated and it is now clear that, whilst the situation of total lockdown may be gradually relaxed, the need for stringent social distancing restrictions is likely to remain for many months to come.”

The President emphasises this key point, stating

“It was no doubt hoped by many that normal working would resume relatively soon and the delay in resolving the contested issues would not be great. It now seems sensible to assume that social distancing restrictions will remain in place for many months and that it is unlikely that anything approaching a return to the normal court working environment will be achieved before the end of 2020 or even the spring of 2021.”

This realisation requires a “significant change in perspective”, he explained, one with implications for the management and progress of all ongoing cases. In particular, lawyers and judges will need to take a fresh look at previously adjourned cases.

Read The Road Ahead in full here.

Even in this Covid-19 world, you are still able to move forward with your divorce proceedings and end your marriage. Things may be a little different now but we can help you move forward if this is what you plan to do. If you’re unsure how this will work, and how you can take the next step, then please call Major Family Law on 01661 824582 or email for a free 45-minute consultation. We help people from all backgrounds and walks of life to begin their next phase.

Photo by Wutthichai Charoenburi via Flickr (Creative Commons)