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Confidentiality & the Media

The confidentiality of family law proceedings is an important consideration for anybody engaged in the process. Different rules apply to different types of case and different levels of court.

Broadly speaking, the position is that very few family court hearings are open to the general public. There are a few exceptions which include the pronouncements of decrees (eg of nullity or divorce), committal hearings, defended divorces and Court of Appeal and Supreme Court hearings.

The situation is slightly different however in relation to press attendance. In general, members of the UK Press Card Scheme may attend hearings of family proceedings which take place in private (ie where the general public cannot attend), subject to the court's discretion. However, having the right to attend hearings does not necessarily give them the right to report, though permission may be granted by a Judge.

It is possible to make an application in advance of a hearing to exclude the press. In deciding whether or not this is appropriate a judge will consider factors such as whether the interests of a child require it, whether it may be necessary to protect the safety of a party or witness, whether it is important to do so for the orderly conduct of proceedings or where justice would otherwise be impeded or prejudiced. 

There is only very limited ability to inspect documents on the court file.

If any of these matters is of particular concern to you we can advise on the making of applications to exclude the press and all other privacy related matters. If appropriate we can take specialist advice either in-house or from barristers who are expert in this field and, where necessary, we can also advise on reputation management.