Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the introduction of social distancing measures, the family courts in England and Wales rapidly adapted to using telephone and video hearings. In light of this significant change, the President of the Family Division asked the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory to undertake a rapid consultation on the use of remote hearings in the family court.The consultation ran for a two-week period from 14 to 28 April 2020 and well over 1,000 people responded.
A follow up consultation process was undertaken between 10 and 30 September 2020. 1,306 respondents completed a survey, several organisations submitted additional information, and focus groups and interviews were undertaken with parents.
In June 2021, in anticipation of the easing of social distancing restrictions introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic, we undertook a final rapid consultation to inform the post-pandemic recovery plans of the family court and the Court of Protection. Over 3,200 professionals and parents and other family members from across England and Wales responded to the consultation.