When the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a worldwide pandemic, numerous things changed. People started working from home, schools shut down, restaurants, and other amusement areas ceased operation. The world was at a standstill to contain the virus. However, for many families, the issues at home did not stop. Family disputes escalated since most people could not get away from home. Globally, the rate of domestic violence increased. The situation became worse as the legal court proceedings set up did not cater for COVID-19 -19 safety protocols.
State of the Courts
Judiciaries faced the challenge of balancing the right to health and the right to justice. There was a constant question on how families can move around issues like child custody, domestic violence, and divorce and still respect the restrictions. Many judiciaries adopted video conferencing, which allows them to conduct court proceedings online. Despite the judiciary’s efforts to keep the proceedings moving, the court backlogs are still piling up tremendously. The issue of underfunding in federal courts is deeply rooted and has a significant impact on operations. When funding lapses, many courts have to postpone cases. Covid-19 may not be the sole cause of court backlogs, but it plays a massive role in the acceleration.
Family Court Proceedings
When families have a hard time accessing court services, barristers like Sima Najma play a critical role in breaching the knowledge gap. They represent a parent, the child, or the local authority. Barristers are instrumental in solving cases involving where a child should live, how much time they should spend with a particular parent, financial disputes between divorced couples, adoption proceedings, and when the state intervenes to protect a child from harm. Family cases take more time compared to regular court cases. This is because they involve a lot of short hearings, spread out in a few months. The court needs to observe the developments in the case to act in the child’s best interest. Thus, most barristers are in court for about four out of five days a week. Not all work involves trials, but a majority of their work is in court. They spend a lot of time advising clients, taking instructions from them, holding out court negotiations, and addressing the judge.
All is not lost for family cases; governments put up measures to cater to family cases specifically. Australia set up a court listing specifically for people with family law disputes that arose due to Covid-19. Brazil has a system that electronically deducts child support from another parent’s salary and sends decisions of a family case ruling electronically. Other countries have tried to narrow the court backlog to only essential issues. They determine the seriousness of a problem by analyzing the sensitivity to time, the family’s immediate needs, and the threats to life and liberty.
The court system for family cases may now be longer due to the COVID-19 situation, but families can still get help. It may be not very clear at first as they wonder what channels to use, but family law barristers help a great deal in such situations.