Covid-19 and virtual court hearings – The changing face of family law

The court system in Scotland is facing a barrage of new challenges amid social distancing measures being put in place throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Not only are family law solicitors expected to operate under unforeseen circumstances, they must also be up to date with conducting hearings via technology whilst ensuring justice for their clients.

Solicitors at Watermans Legal have been involved in various remote hearings via a Zoom-style video conference, when they would have normally taken place in a court room setting.

Sarah Hay, a Family Law solicitor at Watermans Legal, discusses the pros and cons of virtual hearings and the challenges being faced by clients.



She said: “We’ve been conducting a few court hearings via video link in recent months and that has become the norm for family law cases.

“During the hearings, we’ve noticed there are a few downsides to conducting the hearings via a video link.

“At the end of some of the virtual hearings there can remain some confusion about the decisions a sheriff has made.

“With video hearings, it can be noted that there’s more room for things not to be as clear as they would be if the hearing were to be held in person.

“Clients may pick up things differently, especially if there are issues with technology and the sound isn’t great.

“Then there’s the fact that it might be open to people interpreting things in a different way as they are unable to pick up cues such as body language and other non-verbal cues in a video.”

The organisation of virtual hearings means that timing for cases going ahead may not be as quick a process as they were before.

Child welfare hearings are normally carried out in a closed court with the sheriff, solicitors and clients in attendance. Other types of hearings are often carried out in an open court.

A lot of the correspondence between lawyers and clients in preparation for a case now have to be conducted back and forth via email, which can time consuming and exhaustive.

However, one of the key benefits for family law clients is that they are no longer required to travel for a hearing and can be readily available for a case to go ahead at a sooner date.

Digital hearings mean that solicitors are also able to deliver justice at a scale and can be accessible to most individuals.

Hearings can be conducted from the comfort of the client’s own home without the need of having to fork out the same travel costs they may have had to pay if the hearing was held was in person.

Sarah said: “One of the other benefits is that the client may not have to take off time from work for an entire day, like they normally would if it was being held in person.

“Some cases can be held via an hour-long call via video, meaning people are able to take part in hearings during their lunch break or even during office hours.”

Our team of solicitors at Watermans Legal are continually working on convenient solutions to deliver services for our clients during the coronavirus pandemic.

How can Watermans help?

If you are interested in finding out about our family law services, please email [email protected].

Contact us today.