The Matrimonial Masters have directed that taking account of the concerns surrounding the COVID -19 pandemic and the need to keep parties, practitioners and staff safe, there will be no further oral hearings with the parties and or their legal representatives until further notice.
In accordance with the Lord Chief Justice’s Notice on 17 March 2020, the court will primarily be focused on urgent matters.
Commencing Wednesday 18 March 2020, the following arrangements come into effect:-
- In relation to review lists, in all cases where the parties are able to agree directions or court times tables, these should be emailed on consent for consideration by the court who will then, where appropriate make an Order in the agreed terms. Otherwise, the cases shall be adjourned until a date to be fixed.
- No new summonses shall be issued for non- urgent business.
- If an application is urgent, it should be certified by the applicant as urgent and supporting written reasons should be provided by email to the Matrimonial Office for the attention of the Master.
- All hearings (save for maintenance pending suit hearings) and Financial Dispute Resolution hearings shall be adjourned and rescheduled as soon as it becomes possible to facilitate the attendance of parties and practitioners in court again.
- Maintenance pending suit applications should be supported by an affidavit served on the Respondent to the application who should within 14 days of service, file by email and serve by email an affidavit in reply. The application will be dealt with on foot of written submissions emailed to the court. The written submissions should provide detail of the parties’ income, outgoings and other resources. Once the court has a complete electronic trial bundle including submissions, discovery to include proof of income and any authorities relied upon, a decision shall issue to the parties.
- Financial Dispute Resolutions produce most benefit when the parties are present which is why the Masters have taken the view to adjourn all Financial Dispute Hearings given the current extraordinary circumstances. There may however be some cases which had been listed for Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing, where counsel and solicitors involved consider it would be useful to email their core issues to the matrimonial office for the Master’s consideration and preliminary indication and where appropriate the Master will endeavour to assist if a conference call with counsel for both parties can be facilitated.
- In even more unusual circumstances, counsel and solicitors might consider how a remote FDR hearing involving the parties can be achieved.
- Other emergency applications shall be certified as urgent and supported by written reasons and adjudication will be after both parties have been afforded the opportunity to email written submissions for the consideration of the court.
- The Master will only make orders in cases where the Master is satisfied that it is right to do so. If the Master has any concerns whatsoever about prejudice and the fairness of the process the Master will simply adjourn the case. Solicitors should check ICOS to confirm adjournment dates or contact the Matrimonial Office.
- It should be noted that these are temporary measures and may be subject to change according to how the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic develops.
18 March 2020