March 31, 2016

Judges’ views differ over reporting of divorce proceedings

The clear difference in opinion became apparent last year, following two very different rulings by Judges presiding over family proceedings in the High Court.

Mr Justice Holman argued that there was a pressing need for greater transparency, while his colleague Mr Justice Mostyn asserted that disputes were “quintessentially private business.”

Now a third Judge has suggested that the issue needs to be examined by the Court of Appeal, possibly laying the ground for an agreement on the best way forward.

In a hearing at the High Court on Friday, Mr Justice Moor said that the difference of opinion needed “to be dealt with” by the more senior court. Although his comments were themselves made in a private hearing, he gave permission to the journalists in attendance to print them.

Family court proceedings are typically heard behind closed doors, with members of the public prevented from attending.

Rules may allow bona fide members of the press to sit in on hearings, but they may not necessarily be allowed to publish the details of the cases in question.

In truth, the debate over how much detail about divorce disputes should be made public has been raging for some time.

Many members of the judiciary believe that the privacy of the parties involved needs to be protected, but at the same time Sir James Munby – the president of the family division – has said that there is a compelling case for greater openness.

He recently argued that the public had a right to know “what is being done in their name.”

Royds’ family law team offer friendly, pragmatic advice at every stage of the divorce process. Click here for further information on the family law services we provide or please contact Patrick Hart.

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