Whilst family law proceedings are not open to the public, accredited media representatives are permitted to attend family court hearings and report on their findings. The scope of what the media are allowed to report on is fairly restricted however this may not be the case going forward.
For the majority of family law proceedings, reporters take no interest, however it is known that the media tend to invest time and resources into high-net worth or well-known celebrities. The open passage for media representatives to gain access into the most intimidate aspects of people’s lives often is met with concern. Whilst, there are alternative options such as private proceedings available, a judge may not always grant the permission to proceed on such a route. This leaves many famous divorcees vulnerable to media vultures and it is often questioned whether the media is at times used by parties to the divorce as a manipulative move to unsteady their ex-partner.
The President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane released a report on 28 October 2021 titled Confidence and Confidentiality: Transparency in the Family Courts in which he states he shall be establishing the Transparency Implementation Group in order to implement changes to how and what reporters can publish surrounding family proceedings.
When questioning the benefit of the media’s attendance at family proceedings, the practical response is that it can be used to encourage parties to settle out of court and thus usually decrease costs, time and overall efforts involved. Furthermore, the outlook, on review of Sir McFarlane’s report, seems to be that the public confidence in the family courts will hopefully increase with further transparency however in reality public scrutiny of the court system may too rise.
Furthermore, Sir McFarlane proposes that the court ought to work with the media “to establish a relationship of trust and confidence”. This statement in itself may raise some eyebrows however the suggestion originated from Sir Nicholas Wall’s literature titled ‘Opening up the Family courts: a personal view’. This long-standing view may well come to fruition after Sir McFarlane’s report that details specific proposals together with the launch of the Transparency Implementation Group.