Divorce – court supports principle of privacy

Good news for anyone who is going through divorce and is worried about the possibility of unwelcome media attention.

The district judge in the recent case of A v A [ which concerned the division of the couple’s financial assets following divorce] ruled that they should be no disclosure of any of the confidential information involved in the case apart from the following basic facts

• the very fact and the date of both the hearing and the original application

• the very fact and the date on which any settlement was made

• limited disclosure in respect of the divorce suit itself

In particular, although the date in fact that a financial settlement could be disclosed, revelation of any details of that settlement are prohibited.

Following the principle set out by the last Labour government, who encouraged more open disclosure and media reporting of family law cases to promote public understanding of the issues, the judge acknowledged that the starting position was indeed one of open justice. He stated ‘nothing should be done to discourage fair and accurate reports of court proceedings.’ He then went on to reject an application made by the husband in the case to have the media entirely excluded from any court hearing. However, in doing so, he then continued by adding that the actual presence of the media in any court hearing “does not mean that confidential information is brought into the public domain.”

It seems to us, and many other commentators, that the judge has sensibly balanced the potentially conflicting issues surrounding freedom of the press, greater public understanding of the court system and human rights.