COVID19 & THE CONTINUATION OF FAMILY MATTERS

When the lockdown was announced there were concerns within Paramount’s Family Department, and also with the majority of our clients, about the continuation of Family Proceedings.  As these proceedings involved the welfare of children, it was felt that these proceedings needed to continue, but as these types of cases are often drawn out with monthly and sometimes even weekly hearings, how were these to continue, without attendance at Court?  Thankfully this issue was resolved quite quickly, with the Courts being able to continue with the majority of these proceedings by listing video and telephone hearings.  When speaking to our clients about this, one informed us that they have not attended Court in person since the lockdown began in March using a mixture of video and telephone hearings.  Another is conducting all meetings and hearings solely by telephone.  We have also have been informed that even with the current situation, Family Solicitors are busier than ever!

With these changes in place, a new concern arose in relation to how Solicitors could continue to be paid and provide the necessary information to support this, especially in Legal Aid matters.  The Legal Aid Agency, however, provided new guidance in relation to evidence they will now accept in place of the normal FAS forms obtained from the Court.  The required evidence (such as party details, hearing times, Court bundle bolt-ons etc.) can now be provided within a Court Order and also in Solicitor’s attendance notes.  The Court have been very helpful in this regard, adding details to Orders and allowing amendments of Orders.  We have also been providing guidance to our clients, advising Solicitors of any missing or additional information that is required, when costing their files.

The LAA also provided additional guidance in respect of the listing of Advocates’ Meeting (now by email from the Court not just by Court Order) and they have also extended the scope and cost limitations of Emergency Certificates to 12 weeks and £2,500 respectively, to help ease the pressure on Solicitors (these changes are to be reviewed at the end of June).

Given the above, it looks like at the moment everyone is doing their best to ensure that Family proceedings and payments are continuing as normal as possible in this situation.

Claire Robson, Senior Family Law Costs Draftsman

Direct Dial: 01228 815396

Email: [email protected]