Tag Archives: Privacy

Why privacy matters

Anna WorwoodAnna Worwood explains the benefits of collaborative law for high-profile people, and the rest of us.

I’ve specialised in helping families through the legal aspects of separation and divorce for nearly 15 years now, and during that time I’ve been able to work with numerous high-profile, international people in the resolution of their most private and personal circumstances. For many of them, and indeed for a great number of my clients overall, privacy and confidentiality is at the forefront of their minds when considering their options for resolving their disputes about money, property or children during divorce or separation.

Privacy is unfortunately not guaranteed if you take a financial dispute to the family court. Currently, some judges are more inclined to hear a case in public than in private, and even to allow journalists to report details, which leaves those who need recourse to the court playing Russian Roulette with their personal information and hoping that the judge who hears the case will allow them a greater, rather than lesser, degree of privacy. While we all wait for the Court of Appeal to clarify the precise position regarding the confidentiality of family financial proceedings, and possibly even after they do, staying out of court is the only true way to ensure that sensitive details are kept private during this most stressful of times.

In most family law cases, whether about children or about money, court should not be the option of first resort. For those going through a difficult divorce, the lengthy process fraught with delay, the comparatively high cost of litigation, and the likelihood of final decisions that don’t meet the unique needs of the family are just three reasons why we tend to suggest alternatives to court wherever possible. Another good reason to consider alternatives is that when you enter mediation, collaborative law or arbitration in order to get a resolution of your dispute, the confidentiality of the information you share is guaranteed. Nobody other than those who take part in the process at your invitation will be privy to your personal details.

Collaborative law has other significant advantages when compared with court: it is a much kinder process to all concerned, enabling a true focus on the interests of the children where relevant, and allowing former partners openly to discuss their hopes and needs for the future rather than focusing on fixed positions, while being supported throughout by their chosen lawyers. The flexible, creative process of collaborative law means that there is much more likely to be a tolerable, workable solution for the family achieved in a costs-controlled manner. Whether you’re an international megastar, an ordinary Jo/e or somewhere in between, collaborative law is worth a look.

Anna.worwood@penningtons.co.uk

 

 

Keeping Private Matters Private

Sara Hannell Sara Hannell talks about privacy in family proceedings and why you may prefer to keep your personal affairs out of court.

When you work towards an outcome in collaborative law, mediation or arbitration – the out-of-court dispute resolution procedures in which we excel as Creative Divorce – you are guaranteed complete confidentiality. Meetings take place privately, in comfort and at your convenience. More than that, you are guaranteed ownership of the outcome in a process that you control and of which you are in charge with regard to timing, disclosure, and the personnel involved.

You may have heard about the drive to increase transparency in the family courts. This arose from a campaign spearheaded by the Times newspaper, which had become concerned about what they considered the secret workings of the courts. They particularly focussed on matters of public children law, at a time when there had recently been several high-profile failures in the child protection system.

The Ministry of Justice and the higher echelons of the family judiciary then took up the cause of transparency. Both supported moves towards greater openness in order to increase public confidence in the system; our current Family Division President remains a passionate supporter. The starting point now is that journalists can attend all family proceedings. The court retains a limited discretion to exclude the media in the interests of children or for the safety and protection of parties and witnesses. These provisions apply to financial and children proceedings arising from divorce or separation as much as to child care proceedings. (If you’re interested in reading the technical details of how the media and family courts interact, you can do so here.)

The judge may limit what the media can actually report from inside a family court, but they are increasingly reluctant to do so unless it would have a negative impact on any children. Financial cases, and in particular those which end up in the Court of Appeal, are frequently reported without being anonymised.

Avoiding publicity is a high priority for many of my clients involved in divorce, both to protect their children and reputations, and also to keep their commercial affairs private. Avoiding the presence of journalists in court hearings is important to many more. A decision to keep matters out of court, and take decisions privately, means that these concerns fall away. The retention of privacy in private matters is one of the many reasons why I recommend collaborative law as a way forward for my clients wherever it is appropriate to do so.