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Remote family hearings don’t work for all

September 10, 2020 Speech Box

Whilst the Family courts have done their best to hear cases through the Covid-19 pandemic, working remotely has not suited all, writes Louise Barretto, Head of our Family law team.

The BBC recently interviewed a mother who unexpectedly lost custody of her two sons to her separated partner, “I wasn’t able to speak to my barrister during the hearing,” she said. “My phone line was used up listening to the court.”

As a result of not being able to appear in person before the judge she feels the process has let her down. Not all communication is verbal, and I have every sympathy for anguish.

An important part of being a Family judge is to empathise with the human beings at the centre of each case. It’s difficult to do that even across a video link, very hard over a phone.

Cafcass reports that the workload of the Family courts continues to grow. There was a record number of child cases in England for September. There were 5,761 new cases (12.6% or 644 more cases than September 2019).

Speaking to the BBC Sir Andrew MacFarlane, the most senior judge in the Family Court said: “Sadly the number of domestic abuse cases has gone up, and there will be a necessary correlation in applications to protect children in those sad cases.”

Whilst the number of cases appears to be rising that will partly be due to a backlog in the system, and also because existing child arrangements for contact and residence have broken down, but also because of a rise in the number of domestic abuse cases.

We have never been busier in the Family team, and look set to become even busier still.

Our Family lawyers have the knowledge and experience to guide you through these challenging times and have rankings in both Chambers & Partners and the Legal 500 for their expertise.

If you would like to discuss your situation or have a related discussion in confidence, please call me on 020 7091 2869 or email

The above is accurate as at 10 November 2020. The information above may be subject to change during these ever-changing times.

The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case by case basis.

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