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Excuse me your honour … may I please get the kids a snack?

Written By: Pauleen Clark

All workplaces have adapted with the pandemic, including the court room

I never thought I’d see the day when I would be taking my young children to court with me.  But with lockdown and alert level restrictions, having children doing home school and pottering away alongside me while I attend a remote family court hearing is the norm these days.

The workplace, and the way we work, has changed forever due to the pandemic.

While some hearings are still done in person, since last year’s lockdown the majority of court is conducted via tele conference, virtual meeting room (VMR), or using audio visual links (AVL).  

Remote court hearings are next level, and while a solid wifi connection is a must, getting the logistics and protocols right are key to ensuring the process works efficiently and is sensitive to those involved in cases.

There are benefits in remote court rooms. There is no need to travel or wait in court, meaning it saves time for counsel and therefore costs for clients.

Filing of applications and affidavits can be done electronically, and these can also be served to relevant parties electronically. This is more efficient for lawyers and more cost effective for clients as there is no need to serve documents using process servers.

This saves a lot of paperwork and printing which is also good for the trees!

On the flipside, there are of course some disadvantages to working remotely. In person, sometimes cases are settled – or progressed – between the two sides while they are waiting to go into court. That opportunity for face to face discussion is reduced when working remotely.

Unfortunately, even with new technology, the courts are not able to run at full capacity and the system is still experiencing delays.

Sometimes, remote court is not appropriate. For example, as family cases are normally closed courts, certain matters and files are not suitable for VMR hearings because of privacy issues and the risk of the hearing being recorded and used for other purposes.

Although a court appearance via a computer screen or telephone feels extremely unnatural to most lawyers, everyone involved in the system has done their best to ensure that a case proceeds smoothly.

There has been a huge amount of adaptation and change in order to be efficient, which can hopefully carry through when we revert to more “normality”.

For most of us involved in family court litigation, it’s pretty much business as usual in court, but from the comfort of home – and in my case, while looking after young school children.