The principle of open courts is highly valued in the UK legal system. However, it is often a worry to people engaged in legal proceedings concerning family or marital issues that by going to court their family’s private affairs will become public knowledge.
In practice, with the assistance of expert legal guidance, many disputes can be efficiently negotiated without the need for a court battle. However, when the outcome of the dispute is court proceedings, the result may not be as bad as you expect.
Firstly, where children are involved, the courts will prohibit their identification, so that any reports are issued in anonymised fashion. Secondly, where it can be justified, it is possible to ask the court for an order which prohibits the reporting of the case.
Recently, for example, an order was granted to prohibit reporting on an appeal hearing in financial remedy proceedings in a divorce case, due to be heard later this year, in order to prevent the identification of the son of the parties involved. The Court of Appeal was of the opinion that the balance between the public interest and the right to anonymity on human rights grounds tipped heavily in favour of the latter.