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I've heard that the press can report on Family Court cases now. Will they be able to publicise my case? What can I do to avoid this?

A photo of Judith Wheeler
by Judith Wheeler 31st January 2023

The simple answer is to try and avoid Court in the first place if at all possible. Inviting the Court to intervene in a family case should always be a last resort and there are other options available, particularly if reporting is a concern.

From 30 January 2023, journalists are able to report on certain family cases from those Courts chosen to participate in a pilot scheme operating in Leeds, Cardiff and Carlisle.

For now, "accredited journalists and legal bloggers" will be able to report on family proceedings provided that the parties within those proceedings remain, anonymous. The scheme could eventually be rolled out across all family courts in England and Wales.

Journalists will be issued with a "transparency order" and key documents from the case. Although the details of the family involved cannot be revealed, local authorities, court-appointed experts, judges and legal representatives involved in the case can be. The parties themselves may be permitted to speak to journalists too.

Only certain types of Court application will initially be open to reporting, but in due course reporting may be permitted in private law Children Act proceedings. For the moment applications made under the Family Law Act 1996, Domestic Abuse Act 2021, Financial Remedy proceedings, Adoption, proceedings, and applications under the Human Fertility and Embryology Act are not part of the pilot scheme.

Allowing reporting in some family cases has the intention of increasing transparency of the judicial process and "promoting public confidence in the family justice system and promoting accountability". Whilst reporting is meant to "help the public understand how the law works, and how decisions are made" there will be a concern that it will encourage voyeuristic interest, and there may be a fear amongst parties to those proceedings that their anonymity may be compromised. Even if the individuals involved in a case are not high profile, the prospect of having a journalist "listening in" at hearings may be unappealing.

Most people who find themselves before the family Court would prefer not to be there, but what are the alternatives to Court, particularly if the prospect of reporting is a concern to you?

There are numerous options which allow the parties to keep their family business private, and also allow the family themselves to control the pace of negotiations and achieve a resolution without the intervention of the Court.

Apart from achieving a resolution in correspondence or round table meetings between solicitors, approaching the negotiations within a Collaborative Law setting may be an option. This involves the couple working with their Collaborative professionals to achieve a settlement that meets their needs and those of any children without the uncertainty of Court or the underlying threat of litigation. There is also the opportunity to involve other third party professionals such as financial advisors and family therapists if the couple wish within the Collaborative process.

Mediation is another alternative and can involve either just the couple and the mediator or hybrid mediation where the couple’s respective solicitors can also join the meetings to advise and support. Some mediators can also undertake child inclusive mediation if it’s appropriate and both parents agree.

Our friendly family team at Thomas Flavell are able to offer advice regarding your options and Judith Wheeler is able to undertake Collaborative work. Contact either of our Leicestershire or Warwickshire offices to arrange a consultation:

Leamington Spa – Judith Wheeler and Rosie Lucas – 01926 887700

Hinckley – Nicola Starbuck – 01455 610747