Electronic Hearings – Are they fair to parties in family law proceedings?
By Justine Clark
6 August 2020
During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Family Law Courts are continuing to hear family law matters before the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Courts electronically via Microsoft Teams. However, this gives rise to the question – are electronic hearings (and in particular electronic final hearings) fair to parties to family law proceedings?
The Family Law Courts (the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court) have considered this in a handful of cases (Justice Baumann in Phelps & Phelps  FamCA 285 and Judge Brown in Candeler & Candeler (No. 2)  FCCA 1095 applying the reasoning of Justice Perram in Capic v Ford Motor Company of Australia Limited (Adjournment)  FCA 486).
In these cases, the Court has concluded that although electronic hearings pose practical difficulties to parties, practitioners and the Court, unless there is a significant concern that the cross examination of parties or a party electronically will undermine the administration of justice (for example, if there is a concern about coaching or interference with a witness giving evidence remotely), although not ideal, final hearings will proceed electronically.
The Federal Court in Capic v Ford reasoned “Under ordinary circumstances, I would not remotely contemplate imposing such an unsatisfactory mode of trial on a party… But these are not ordinary circumstances”.
For parties to family law matters, it is more important than ever to:
- Have confidence in your legal team;
- Ensure that your matter is well prepared prior to electronic hearings; and
- Engage a family lawyer who will conduct your matter strategically, to obtain favourable outcomes for you and your family.
The Family Law Team at TLFC can assist you. Investing in strategic and tailored family law advice will ensure that you know:
- Where you stand in relation to your financial and / or parenting matters (or in negotiating a financial agreement); and
- How to successfully negotiate (or have your family lawyer negotiate) a favourable outcome to your family law matters, prioritising what is important to you and to your family.