Transparency on the increase in family courts

Running from 1 October 2018 until 30 June 2019, family law courts in England Wales are now operating a pilot for “duly authorised” lawyers to “blog” about report on private hearings. However, there are still some restrictions and rules in place to protect the parties’ privacy. The greater transparency of these hearings is operating for a pilot period, with rules set out in FPR Practice Direction 36J.

The pilot will allow practising lawyers, academic lawyers and educational charities to attend private hearings for matters regarding matrimonial finances or private law children disputes. Potential attendees will need to undertake a robust approval process, demonstrating their qualification criteria and eligibility for the scheme, together with photographic identification being required on the day of the hearing too. In addition, attendees will need to complete an application form undertaking not to breach existing privacy rules and confirm that the attending party is not acting on behalf of the litigating parties’ or with an active interest in the case, but is solely attending for educational, journalistic or research purposes.

The pilot scheme has been posited to develop the insight and transparency available to the wider public, enabling them to better understand how family courts operate and the cases they consider, whilst also communicating to them the decisions the family courts are making. But why is this so important all of a sudden?

Post-LASPO,  the court system is now dealing increasingly with litigants in person, often individuals with little or no understanding of the family court system, nor what to expect from the process. When considering their position and impending court proceedings, the almost instinctive Google search will inevitably throw up high profile cases, the latest celebrity divorce perhaps or a high net worth financial settlement, but probably not case facts within the realms of the average litigant on the street. The transparency aspect of this pilot is designed as a nostrum to these cases, reflecting the “average” experience and removing the hesitation and uncertainty associated with court proceedings. The role of the attending “bloggers” is to hold the family law justice system to account, but in doing so, those eligible lawyers can also provide a greater technical understanding and the ability to interpret the proceedings through a prism of legal understanding and experience.

Serving Bedford and the surrounding villages, together with our office in central London, the solicitors at Hunter and Uro Solicitors can help you with any family law matter, including divorce and separation, financial matters and disputes concerning children. Our team of lawyers can provide you wish advice and guidance on the court process, together with mediation and whether or not it might suit your dispute. If you would like to speak to one of our solicitors to discuss your case, contact us on 01234 889777 or 0207 177 9777.

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