Coronavirus Blog Series:
Divorce Hearings Conducted Remotely
Published 28 May 2020
In response to the current situation, the Lord Chief Justice has issued guidance confirming that a pilot scheme for the hearing of undefended divorces in Belfast County Court would commence on 26th May 2020.
Undefended divorces are when the parties’ consent to the divorce and only the petitioner and their legal representative are required to attend Court. These are ordinarily straight forward proceedings and therefore appropriate for the judiciary to trial remote hearings.
Under Schedule 27 of the Coronavirus Act 2020, the County Court Judge involved made a direction that hearings could take place by way of live video link, with the petitioner and their legal representative participating in the hearing. A visit to Court was substituted with a ‘SightLink’ meeting.
Our Family Law team were pleased with how the pilot scheme worked and see this as a big step forward for the profession.
During the pilot scheme, which took place over 2 days, there were 20 undefended divorces heard by the County Court Judge. MKB Law’s Family Law team were pleased to be involved in one of these Decree Nisi hearings, which was conducted in a meeting room with dedicated video conferencing facilities located within our office. Solicitor, Karen Edwards, and the client ensured that social distancing was maintained at all times during the process.
To further facilitate remote hearings:
1. MKB Law shall provide a Bible for those who wish to take the oath
2. Marriage certificates should be available for ease of proofs
3. It is recommended that the petitioner presents themselves in attire reflective of an actual physical hearing.
If the client does not wish to attend our offices or indeed is unable to attend, there is also an option to join the sight link from home.
We are hopeful that this can now be rolled out across other Court divisions and areas to ensure that our clients are able to progress their cases despite these challenging times.
MKB Law welcome further progressive changes such as these across all areas.
Should you require any further advice or assistance with a matrimonial or other family matter, please contact the Family Law team at MKB Law
This article is for general guidance only and should not be regarded as a substitute for professional legal advice.