Transparency in the Family Court

There have been calls in recent years for greater transparency in the Family Court. In particular, the ability of the press and others such as legal bloggers to be able to report on family cases.

The President of the Family Division has recently announced proposed measures following a transparency review. These include:

  • A presumption that allows reporting of family cases subject to the judge’s discretion whether it is appropriate to report a particular case.
  • Allowing parties to speak to the press/legal bloggers about details of children proceedings. Whilst the information given could not be published the press/blogger would be able to attend and report on any hearings.  
  • Allowing the press/legal bloggers to see documents which are necessary to understand the case. 
  • A greater number of judgments to be published (10% of a judge’s decisions).
  • Greater data collection by HMRC at the conclusion of a case.

The aim of the proposals is to provide greater transparency over how decisions in the Family Court are made.

What does this mean for me if I go to court?

Anyone contemplating issuing family proceedings should be aware that, if these proposals come into effect, details of their case could be reported in the press and legal blogs and there is no automatic right to keep details of family cases private. Details that may be reported on include:

  • The names of the parties although any children will continue to have the right to anonymity;
  • Pictures of the parties;
  • Descriptions of factual, evidential or legal issues including open proposals made from the parties;
  • Quotations or information from documents filed in proceedings, oral evidence, submissions, comments of the court, the court judgment and order disposing of the proceedings excluding any protected financial information;
  • A broad description of the types and amounts of the assets, liabilities, income and other financial resources of the parties, without identifying the actual items, where they are sited or by whom they are held;
  • A broad description of the open proposals of the parties giving monetary values without identifying actual items.

Is there any way to avoid reporting of my case?

A judge may order that information should not be reported on. However, parties should expect that this will be the exception rather than the rule.

Ultimately resolving matters outside of court proceedings will be the only way to guarantee a case is not reported. For those cases that cannot be resolved by agreement arbitration will have a huge advantage over court proceedings as the dispute can be determined privately without the press or legal bloggers attending. 

At Mills & Reeve we frequently use arbitration to help our clients resolve family and children disputes and a number of our specialist team are trained finance and children arbitrators. For more information about arbitration click here.   

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