Covid-19 and the Family Courts: Key Practitioner Findings in Children Cases

Kayliegh Richardson*, Ana Speed, Callum Thomson, Laura Coapes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

In March 2020, stringent social distancing measures were introduced across England and Wales to reduce the spread of Covid-19. These measures have presented significant challenges for the family justice system. This article sets out the findings of interviews conducted with professionals in the North East of England who have represented or otherwise supported litigants in private and public children proceedings since social distancing measures were introduced. The findings reveal that whilst practitioners are broadly positive about their experiences of shorter non-contested hearings, they nonetheless have concerns about the effectiveness of remote/hybrid hearings in ensuring a fair and just process in lengthy and complex cases. In particular, the findings indicate that the move to remote hearings has exacerbated pre-existing barriers to justice for unrepresented and vulnerable litigants. The aims of this article are not to ‘name and shame’ any particular court but to highlight evidence of good practice in the North East of England and provide scope for improving practitioners’ and litigants’ experiences within current restrictions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)414-438
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Social Welfare and Family Law
Volume43
Issue number4
Early online date26 Nov 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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