Tips for virtual court hearings
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way the world does business and courts are no exception.
With many of us still working remotely, and taking meetings, or simply catching up with friends and family over Zoom or FaceTime, the courts are also conducting hearings electronically.
The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia is, of course, conducting hearings in person, but is now also doing so via video link and telephone.
This ensures improved safety and access to justice for vulnerable people and those living in regional areas.
But how does it work and what is the correct way to take part in a “virtual” court hearing?
It’s important to remember that an electronic hearing is still a proper and formal court hearing.
The usual rules of court, court procedures, courtesies and formalities still apply, and you are expected to comply with them.
Your hearing may be conducted electronically because you have made a request to do so, or the court has directed that the hearing will be held via video link or telephone.
You can work out how and where a hearing will occur by:
- Checking court orders – if a hearing was listed when a judge or registrar made orders, the relevant order might state the method or location of the hearing.
- Checking emails or letters about your matter from the court – typically if your hearing is going to be electronic, the court will send you, or your lawyer, an email with instructions on how to join the hearing and what documents are to be provided to the court before the hearing date.
The court conducts some electronic hearings via internet video link using the Microsoft Teams platform. You do not need to buy software to participate in a video link hearing and you do not need a paid subscription to Microsoft Teams.
The same etiquette applies for your court hearing whether it’s in person or a virtual hearing. Some tips include:
- Your behaviour, manner and presentation should be the same as if you are attending the court hearing in person. This includes addressing the judge correctly as “Your Honour” and addressing Counsel politely and courteously.
- You should be in a quiet and secure space, free of interruptions or distractions for the duration of the hearing.
- You should join the hearing at least 15 minutes prior, or at an earlier time specified by the court, to ensure there is enough time to resolve any technical issues.
- You are to keep your microphone muted until you are required to address the court.
- You are not permitted to use any recording or transmission devices to record, edit or distribute any audio and/or visual footage of the hearing.
- You should ensure that any mobile phones or other devices not in use for the hearing are switched off or in a location which would not cause any disturbance to the hearing.
- You should be dressed in clothing suitable for a court appearance.
- You are not permitted to eat or drink for the duration of the hearing, with the exception of a glass of water.
Some hearings are conducted by phone using the AAPT teleconferencing platform.
When you are connected to a court teleconference, never place the call on hold (this includes taking another call while connected).
You should place your phone on mute when you are not speaking, and like a video link hearing, you are not allowed to record any aspect of the hearing.
If you have special needs – for example, you don’t have internet access, or a computer, or if you need an interpreter – you can discuss that with the court, or your solicitor, before the hearing takes place.
If you have any questions about family law hearings, either in person or virtually, contact Michael Lynch Family Law on: (07) 3221 4300 or email: [email protected] We’re committed to helping you through this time and to assist you in navigating all the court processes.