A weekday morning at the local Courts was once teaming with lawyers and clients, the Judges frantically working their way through their long, daily lists of cases. Having visited one such local court this week for a personal hearing, a relatively rare occurrence post-Covid, it was significantly quieter, almost eerily so, with many of the hearings now being conducted on a remote basis. With the use of technology, the whole process of the hearing, with all its formality and protocol, can now be transported into the litigant’s home.
Other changes are on display, demonstrating how the process of Family Law has changed beyond recognition, in the last couple of years. The Courts still recovering from the vast backlog of cases and burgeoning pipeline of work, a legacy of Covid, have seen many Court users opt out of this system altogether. Timetables are more likely to be agreed by the parties, or their lawyers, avoiding direction hearings. In respect of financial proceedings following on from a couple’s separation, these parties involved can opt to have a private hearing, heard by a private Judge, most often a barrister or retired Judge, resulting in a hearing being scheduled, in weeks at their convenience, rather than the many months wait, associated with Court fixtures.
Arbitration is another useful process for a separating couple to resolve a child-related or financial issue. Again, the timetable and final hearing can be conducted, at the convenience of the participants and their legal advisers, and perhaps in a less daunting environment, than a court room, taking place in the arbitrator’s workplace or offices. Again, an arbitrator can be a barrister, solicitor, or retired judge.
Mediation is another process that has evolved as a result of changing post-pandemic methods and attitudes. Mediation is a process whereby the separating couple will meet with an independent and impartial mediator, normally a lawyer or barrister, who will assist them in facilitating an agreement on any aspect of their separation, be that practical, financial or care arrangements for the children. The mediation meetings previously conducted in the mediator’s offices can now be routinely arranged for, remotely. This can be so much more conducive to work and childcare commitments, diarised at a moment’s notice and surprisingly convenient in the fast-paced times that we live in. Whether we prefer a face-to-face meeting or hearing, or one, via a computer screen, it is clear that these changes are here to stay.
This article was brought to you by Kathryn Coyle a family solicitor at Kidd Rapinet Solicitors Maidenhead. You can speak to Kathryn or any of the family lawyers across our other offices in Aylesbury, Canary Wharf, Farnham, High Wycombe or Slough, using the form provided. Please use the links provided to find more information on divorce or separation, child arrangements and other areas of family law.
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