Family law disputes invariably invite the airing of dirty laundry.

The expansion of online news outlets coupled with the prevalence of social media platforms means individual’s personal information can be disseminated quickly and in a far-reaching manner. This should be concerning for anyone but particularly for those running a business or in the entertainment, sporting and music industries where reputation undoubtedly has a tangible value. The ubiquity of the internet means reputation matters more than ever before.

How can we help protect your reputation?

Successful reputation management is underpinned by taking strategic preventive measures. Carefully timed and targeted action consistently solves potential problems for our clients and avoids both unwanted publicity and viral spreading of information. In family law disputes, early and clear communication is effective in preserving a reputation and prevents the need for unnecessary litigation.

When working with our high-profile clients, the HopgoodGanim Family and Relationship Law team works closely with other sections of our firm that deal with civil disputes, breaches of privacy and matters of defamation to ensure reputation management is actioned effectively. We also have connections in areas of communication, cyber security, corporate governance and financial advisory to ensure a tailored service is provided to high profile individuals.

How does the law protect my privacy in a family law dispute?

Once court proceedings have been commenced, family law matters are kept confidential and clients will be afforded the protection of the law when it comes to public dissemination of information. Section 121 of the Family Law Act 1975 provides that “a person who publishes in a newspaper or periodical publication, by radio broadcast or television or by other electronic means, or otherwise disseminates to the public or to a section of the public by any means, any account of any proceedings, or any part of any proceedings that identifies a party to the proceedings, a person related to the party in the proceedings or a witness in the proceedings, is guilty of an offence punishable, upon conviction, by imprisonment for up to one year.”

Specifically, section 121(3) of the Act provides that an account of the proceedings will constitute identification of any party if it contains any particulars of:

  • the name, title, pseudonym or alias of the person;
  • the address of any premises at which the person resides or works, or the locality in which any such premises are situated;
  • the physical description or the style of dress of the person;
  • any employment or occupation engaged in, profession practised or calling pursued, by the person or any official or honorary position held by the person;
  • the relationship of the person to identified relatives of the person or the association of the person with identified friends or identified business, official or professional acquaintances of the person;
  • the recreational interests, or the political, philosophical or religious beliefs or interests, of the person; or
  • any real or personal property in which the person has an interest or with which the person is otherwise associated, being particulars that are sufficient to identify that person to a member of the public, or to a member of the section of the public to which the account is disseminated, as the case requires.

As such, any account of Family Court proceedings in the press must be clinically devoid of any personal reference, making the account difficult for journalists to write and therefore even more difficult for readers to derive meaning. However, the intention of the legislation is not such that the restriction on dissemination should apply, for example, to private conversations between a party to Family Court proceedings and a close personal friend.

Matters concerning the preservation of an individual’s reputation are typically exacerbated when parties going through the separation are high profile individuals.