In response to the Covid-19 crisis, for most family law matters the court room looks very different.
The court now embraces, and often mandates, attendance by telephone and video. At Mason Lawyers, our practice is to have our client’s attend our office for all court attendances so that we can take instructions and make informed submissions on your behalf. This type of attendance has been rolled out for directions hearings, conciliation conferences and multiple day final hearings.
It has been our experience that this form of electronic attendance at court has had a few unexpected benefits for our clients, particularly for victims of family violence.
Prior to the Covid-19 guidelines around electronic attendance, parties were required to attend court in person usually every few months. We had clients who experienced high level anxiety around these attendances, fearing an unexpected meeting in an elevator, a glare or harsh word from a former partner (or their friends and family), and fears around safety leaving the court precinct.
It has been our experience that our clients have experienced far less anxiety around court attendances and safety measures have been more effective and easier to implement.
We have also seen a reduction in legal fees for clients. When in-person attendance was required lawyers were often waiting four hours or more for their 20 minutes in front of the Judge. The waiting time was often charged to the client. With electronic Court attendance, a lawyers waiting time can be spent on other matters in the office, resulting in huge savings for clients.
In our view electronic attendance has not been all wins though. Negotiations are often more difficult when they are not conducted in person, and in some instances we have witnessed an unwarranted decline in formality shown to Judicial officers and legal practitioners.