Divorcing in private or in the press?

A High Court judge hearing a divorce case reported this week has decided that the media should not be allowed to share and rake over the details, despite earlier in the proceedings being allowed to do so.

Evidence was given to the court of the couple’s children having been embarrassed and upset , and this, together with an emphasis of the family’s human rights to respect for private and family life tipped the balance in favour of a prohibition on media reporting.

It may come as a surprise to many to learn that, since 2009 and generally speaking, the press are allowed to sit in on, and report family cases. Some cases are fully excluded from this, for example those relation to adoption and post-surrogacy. 

For the rest,  a judge may prevent the press from attending certain hearings, or parts of them.  if it is necessary (a) to protect the interests of a child involved in the proceedings, (b) for the safety or protection of a party, a witness, or someone connected with them, or (c) for the orderly conduct of the proceedings. A judge might for example ban press from the court if it would lead to a witness refusing to give evidence or if sensitive commercial information could be made public.

Whether or not to exclude the press is a subject which appears to divide judges a lot at present: some sit very firmly in the camp of openness, feeling that the perception that the courts operate in a kind of secret way needs to be removed.  Others feel that media coverage is intrusive and inherently stressful for people who ought to be able to have these matters resolved in private, behind firmly closed doors.

No doubt this judgement will now be used as a precedent by those seeking to keep their divorces out of the pages of the Daily Mail!

Media told divorce fight outcome cannot be reported despite earlier coverage naming those involved

The public cannot be told the result of a divorce money fight between a wealthy businessman and his wife although media organisations have already reported that a hearing named those involved, a judge has decided.

Reports of the couple’s separation had appeared before the litigation began, and lawyers representing the man and woman agreed that journalists could report the fact that the dispute was taking place, and name the pair.

But Mr Justice Bodey has now thrown a blanket of secrecy over the case after the businessman said he was strongly opposed to the outcome being reported.