The opening up of family courts across England and Wales to the media – as part of a government bid to boost public confidence in the system – has prompted concern that people’s privacy may be compromised.
This isn’t so – and the second part of this two-part blog looks at what the new legislation will mean in practice – but for many people, discretion is an important part of the divorce process.
This is particularly the case in high profile and celebrity divorces. In Birmingham, where our law firm is based, the family courts are sensitive to people’s need for discretion and privacy. We regularly act for well known figures based in London, many of whom prefer to have their hearings in Birmingham because court officials allow them to use the back entrance and thus avoid media attention.
A specialist matrimonial lawyer is able to advise clients on where final hearings should take place. Not everyone realises that you can choose to have your divorce settled by a court anywhere in England and Wales, regardless of where you live. So if you want your divorce to be as hush-hush as possible, a good lawyer will suggest a court such as Birmingham.
As well as providing varying degrees of discretion, different courts also have different specialities and judges different views. So even though final settlements should be uniform, wherever they are held, in practice it doesn’t work like that. Judges are human, after all, and some will be more likely than others to grant a settlement that is favourable to you.
There is nothing more frustrating than to go to court after months, maybe years, of protracted negotiation between the parties only to have the deal rejected by a judge, who then imposes his or her own deal. That is far less likely to happen if you have a first-rate lawyer who knows the workings and leanings of particular courts. Niche matrimonial practices like ours that act for clients across the country and overseas have much more experience of different courts than High Street firms that which generally deal only with courts in their town or city.
Finding a good lawyer to handle your divorce is crucial to ensure the best possible financial outcome, but it’s also important if you want the process to be as discreet as possible.