Family Courts: Dealing with Urgent Applications and Hearings During Covid-19

Year Published: 2020

Following on from our previous blog relating to domestic violence and in particular occupation orders and non-molestation orders, clients may be wondering whether urgent applications can still be dealt with by the Family courts amidst the covid-19 pandemic.

Are the Family Courts Still Open?

The family courts remain functioning despite the covid-19 outbreak with court staff being classified as key workers. Whilst hearings will not take place within the court itself, the courts have adapted quickly in utilising technology available and continuing with ‘remote hearings’. This means that hearings will be carried out via video conferencing or telephone conferencing. SAS Daniels are liaising with the courts weekly to see what provisions have been made for our particular hearings and our solicitors have already successfully conducted hearings remotely.

What Types of Matters Would Need Urgent Attention?

  • Urgent non-molestation orders

If you need urgent protection from domestic violence an emergency application can be made. The person you are seeking protection from would usually be notified of the order and given the opportunity to make representations at the first hearing. If you do not want the person to know about the application as you are fearful that this will put you in danger you can apply ‘without notice’. The court will then hold a hearing and a Judge may issue an order at that hearing without the other person being present. Once the order has been issued that person will then have to be notified but at that point you will already have the protection of an emergency order, this will stay in place until the next hearing.

During covid-19 we expect that such applications will be dealt with either on paper which would mean that the court will simply review the application and supporting statement and make an emergency order or they will carry out a remote hearing before making an order.

  • Urgent children applications

Where there is an urgent issue such as an imminent risk of abduction an urgent and without notice application would be made. The court will need to be satisfied that there is an imminent risk of abduction, this requires careful consideration. Factors such as the other parent holding the children’s passports and making comments either to family members or you directly that they intend to leave the jurisdiction would be clear evidence of an imminent risk.

Urgent applications require a hearing so that the court can hear representations from the person applying as to their reasons for applying and what protection they are seeking. We expect again that these urgent applications will be dealt with via video or telephone conference. We will continue to advise all new and existing clients in relation to any safeguarding concerns they may have for their children.

  • Freezing orders in financial proceedings

A freezing order can be made in financial proceedings to stop one party from disposing of an asset or a number of assets. The reason that a party may seek to dispose of an asset is to avoid it forming part of a financial settlement. An urgent application can be made where it is anticipated someone will be taking steps to dispose of assets. The person applying for such an order must evidence to the court that there is a real risk of this taking place and there is a risk of hardship and injustice should those assets be disposed of. A freezing order can be made over assets such as property, bank accounts, cars, business assets and shares.

A without notice application can be made in these cases and we can advise you as to whether an application would be appropriate in your circumstances. A hearing would be listed remotely in these cases.

 SAS Daniels will be able to advise you on making court applications during covid-19. We will also be able to represent clients at remote hearings concerning any of the above urgent issues as well as any non-urgent family matters. Contact Family Law Solicitor, Zoe Worthington on 0161 475 1234 or email [email protected] to find out more.

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