26th Jun 2020

Family Courts are reopening but is it all systems go?

We are all welcoming the gradual lifting of the lockdown restrictions. At long last there are signs that life might get back to some kind of “normal”.

It has been announced recently that the Family Courts in England are going to start dealing with hearings again and trying to progress the numerous applications that have come before them during the restrictions. There has been a recognition that social distancing and all that implies is likely to continue for some time and that the courts need to adapt so court business can go on.

It remains to be seen just how the courts are going to cope with hearings, especially face-to-face ones. To date, since lockdown, many cases have been dealt with by telephone hearings or, in some cases videoconferencing. That has enabled some cases to move forward though each method has its limitations.

The reality is however that the courts have a huge backlog and it will be many, many months yet before the system is back to anything like normal. For example, one case I am dealing with had a final hearing listed in early June and we have now been told by the court that if we are lucky it will be dealt with in November or December.

Avoiding the court backlog

Even if you are in litigation it is not too late to look at alternative means of resolving your dispute. Ask yourself is it still possible to come to a compromise? Can you speak direct to the other person involved and try to agree things?

If it isn’t, you are likely to have to factor in the ongoing cost, both economic and emotional of the proceedings continuing much longer than you anticipated. If you cannot resolve matters direct, are your solicitors able to negotiate something or do you need the assistance of a third-party such as a mediator?

If not yet in court it is probably still best to avoid litigation if you possibly can for some while yet. In that case you should be exploring mediation and collaboration, both processes which enable you to retain control over what is going on and retaining control of the timetable. It is very likely, given the delays in the judicial system that any alternative method of resolving your dispute is going to be much quicker – and cheaper – than a protracted piece of litigation.

All of the Family Team at Berwins are trained collaborative lawyers and well-versed in the alternative methods of resolving family disputes. We can advise you as to which is best suited for your particular set of circumstances and guide you through the process to a solution.

Our dedicated and friendly team is here to help. If you have a matter you would like to discuss, please get in touch by calling 01423 509 000 or use our contact form online and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Stephen Root is a top ranked Family Lawyer with 30 years’ legal experience. 

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