Unveiling the Role of Media Reporting in Family Law Court Proceedings

For many years, parties to proceedings in the Family Courts could often safely expect that their case would be heard in private and if the judgment in their case was published, it would be anonymised.

However, Laura Martin – Partner and head of Family Law - provides her views on a growing push to increase transparency in such proceedings (recently flagged in this BBC article by Sanchia Berg and Judith Burns: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-67940107) and explores the role of media reporting in Family Law Court proceedings, examining its potential benefits, drawbacks, and ethical considerations.

Confidence and Confidentiality

In October 2021, Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division, published his report ‘Confidence and Confidentiality: Transparency in the Family Courts‘. The President concluded at paragraph 35 of his report as follows:

“My overall conclusion is that the time has come for accredited media representatives and legal bloggers to be able, not only to attend and observe Family Court hearings, but also to report publicly on what they see and hear. Reporting must be subject to very clear rules to maintain both the anonymity of the children and family members who are before the court, and confidentiality with respect to intimate details of their private lives. Openness and confidentiality are not irreconcilable and each is achievable. The aim is to enhance public confidence significantly, whilst at the same time firmly protecting continued confidentiality.”

Children Proceedings

The Transparency Media Reporting Pilot Scheme began on 30 January 2023 in respect of public law children cases and would be extended to private law children cases. The Family Courts in Leeds, Carlisle and Cardiff were involved in the 12-month pilot scheme. Dorset has been invited to take part in the second phase of the pilot, which will launch in January 2024.

The fundamental principle of the pilot is to allow accredited journalists and legal bloggers to report on what they see and hear in Court (the ‘transparency principle’) unless there is good reason to say no; in effect reversing the presumption against reporting. Any reporting is subject to protecting the anonymity of any children (the ‘anonymity principle’).

The Court will consider making a Transparency Order (which can be modified as appropriate) but retains a discretion to order that the case should not be reported. The standard Transparency Order will remain in place until any relevant child turns 18 and restricts the reporting of identifying details, such as the names and dates of birth of any subject children, the names of the parties, or the name of any parent or family member who is mentioned in the case, or whose name may lead to the children being identified. However, local authorities, NHS Trusts, Court appointed experts and legal representatives (amongst others) may be named.

Under the Pilot, reporters are entitled to be provided with copies of, see and quote from case outlines, skeleton arguments, summaries, position statements, threshold documents and chronologies.

Media reporting of Family Law Court proceedings has become a subject of great interest and controversy. As Family Law cases often involve sensitive personal matters, including child arrangements, divorce, and domestic violence, the impact of media reporting on the parties involved can be significant. It is essential therefpre to consider the benefits and drawbacks of greater reporting.


Enhanced transparency and accountability: Media reporting can make the Court proceedings more transparent, allowing the public to witness the administration of justice firsthand. This transparency can enhance public trust and confidence in the legal system.

Public interest and education: Media coverage can increase public awareness and understanding of Family Law issues, leading to informed discussions and potential positive changes. It can also help educate society about complex legal processes and the importance of Family Law in protecting the rights and well-being of families and children involved.

Highlighting issues: In certain cases, media reporting can shed light on issues within the Family Law system, such as biases or inefficiencies. By exposing these problems, media coverage can drive the need for reform and improvement.


Invasion of privacy: Family Law cases involve intimate and highly personal matters. Media reporting may invade the privacy of the parties involved, compromising their emotional well-being and potentially damaging their reputation or relationships.

Sensationalism and bias: Media reporting often focuses on dramatic elements of a case, which can lead to sensationalism and distortion of facts. The portrayal of a one-sided narrative can be misleading and unfair to the parties involved.

Impact on children: The involvement of children in family law cases raises additional concerns. Media reporting can expose them to unnecessary harm and scrutiny, potentially impacting their emotional stability and development.

Ethical Considerations

Media reporting in Family Law Court proceedings raises important ethical considerations for journalists and publishers. Some considerations include:

Respecting privacy and dignity: Media professionals should balance their right to report with the responsibility to protect the privacy and dignity of the individuals involved. This involves refraining from disclosing identifying information or sensitive details that could harm the parties' well-being.

Fair and balanced reporting: Journalists should strive for fair, accurate, and balanced reporting, ensuring all parties have an opportunity to present their perspectives without bias or distortion.

Minimising harm to children: Special care should be taken to shield children from unnecessary exposure and potential harm. Children's interests should always take precedence over media interests.

Media reporting in Family Law Court proceedings carries both benefits and drawbacks. While transparency and increased public understanding can be positive outcomes, invasion of privacy, sensationalism, and potential harm to the parties involved require careful ethical considerations. Striking a balance is crucial. Ultimately, media organisations and journalists should adhere to professional standards and ethics when covering Family Law Court proceedings.

Parties must now be aware that they cannot expect privacy and anonymity to the same extent as in the past. However, it remains to be seen what the effect of this push for greater transparency will be on parties and proceedings in future…

If you would like to speak with Laura about any of the issues raised by this article, please feel free to reach out to her by email on laura.martin@blanchardsbailey.co.uk or by telephone on 01258 459361.

Blanchards Bailey

So, how can we help?

Whatever your requirements, our team is standing by.

Call us today on
01258 459361