Details of your Court case must be treated in confidence, although you are allowed to share information and discuss them with:
The relevant permissions are granted in sections 12.73 and 12.75 of the Family Procedure Rules 2010.
In addition to the individuals and organisations mentioned in the last second, you can discuss the text of a Court Order with:
If there are other people who you feel should be aware of details of a Court Order, such as your child´s school or General Practitioner, you need to ask the Court for permission before you can do this. Your solicitor can help you to do this.
Family Procedure Rule 12.75 grants certain permissions, including the right to seek confidential advice from 'any person':
Communication by a party, or the legal representative of a party, on that party´s instructions, may communicate information relating to the proceedings to any person where necessary to enable that party:
(a) by confidential discussion, to obtain support, advice or assistance in the conduct of the proceedings. This allows a party to communicate with a health care professional or a person or body providing counselling services for children or families any information relating to the proceedings to enable the party or any child of the party to obtain health care or counselling;
(b) to engage in mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution;
It is however important to be aware that the rules also state that:
Where information is communicated to any person in accordance with (a), no further communication by that person is permitted.
The courts are well aware that parents seek advice from lay advisers, and specialist forums where questions may be answered in relation to proceedings. Indeed, past Presidents of the Family Division of the Court have noted the worth of such support mechanisms. The Citizens Advice Bureau, Families Need Fathers and other organisations offer lay advice, and the court's permission to seek lay advice has never been required (or the lack of permission criticised.
If you offer lay advice, you MUST treat what is said to you in confidence.
Unless you have the permission of the Court, sharing information with an unauthorised person, or publishing details of your Court case publicly or within the media, can be a "Contempt of Court".
If you do need to share information (within the restrictions detailed in this Chapter) ensure anything in writing includes the wording "Private and Confidential" and that the people you either tell or give the information to are aware of the restrictions. Keep a record of the people you handed information to, and the reason why you did.
Yes, although solicitors and barristers also have a duty not to mislead the Court. If they become aware of information that is harmful to your case and you withhold your permission for them to disclose it to the Court, they are entitled to refuse to continue to work for you.
A solicitor should consider breaking the confidentiality rule in circumstances where they consider there to be serious health risks to a child or a threat to a child´s life.
We would strongly advise against posting details of your court case, details about your children's circumstances, or criticism of your ex-partner on social media such as Facebook, blogs or Twitter. If you do, at worst, you could be committed to prison for contempt of court. At best, if the court becomes aware of this, you may face injunctions, warnings, or upset the judge (never a good idea!).
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Michael Robinson © 2014
Family law information for parents whose children are resident in England and Wales
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