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Do we need physical family courts?

George, Rob; Marsh, Rob; (2024) Do we need physical family courts? Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law 10.1080/09649069.2024.2305028. (In press). Green open access

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The family court responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by rapidly transitioning to remote hearings. Almost four years later, remote hearings remain common, although the clear direction of travel, especially for children and domestic abuse injunction cases, has been back towards everyone attending hearings face-to-face. In this article, we explore what might be lost when family court hearings take place remotely, and, more fundamentally, whether we really need physical family courts. We suggest that the family court is ‘multifunctional’: as well as having an important role in adjudication, it is a physical space in which family members can try to resolve their family law dispute through reflection, negotiation and conciliation, often with the moral support of a legal team, and backed by the judge’s authority. We consider guidance issued during the pandemic and show that the non-adjudicative functions of the family court were initially overlooked by the senior judiciary. Finally, we explore legal professionals’ experiences of remote family justice to assess how well the family court can perform its various functions remotely. We conclude that physical family courts are an essential part of the family justice system and, for those family disputes that require court involvement, they provide significant benefits.

Type: Article
Title: Do we need physical family courts?
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1080/09649069.2024.2305028
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09649069.2024.2305028
Language: English
Additional information: © 2024 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).
Keywords: Family court, COVID-19 pandemic, remote hearings, functions of the family court
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Laws
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10187006
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