Family Law Publication Restrictions: What’s private and what can be posted?
Parties to Family Law proceedings often confide in their loved ones for comfort and support during what is a stressful and emotionally charged time. Whilst the warmth and empathy of family and friends is invaluable in managing the challenges of a family breakdown, parties to Family Law proceedings should be aware that if they publish details of their court proceedings online they may be committing an indictable offence.
Unlike other areas of law or overseas jurisdictions where the details of court proceedings are widely available to the public (and often make front page headlines), Family Law proceedings in Australia are confidential.
In Australia it is an indictable offence under Section 121(1) of the Family Law Act 1975 for a person to:-
- publish in a newspaper or periodical publication;
- by radio broadcast or television or other electronic means (which includes mobile phone text, internet, Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites);
- or otherwise disseminate to the public or to a section of the public
Any account of any proceedings or any part of any proceedings under the Family Law Act 1975 that identifies a party to the proceedings, a person who is or alleged to be related to or associated with a party to the proceedings or a witness in the proceedings. Any person found to have contravened section 121 may be prosecuted and face fines of up to $2,000 or even imprisonment.
Whilst historically it was journalists that needed to be wary of the restrictions on publishing information relating to Family Law proceedings, the rise and accessibility of social media has created more opportunities for people to share information online. It is important to be aware that publishing information about your family law matter online, including on your “private” social media account, may be a breach of section 121 of the Family Law Act and can carry serious consequences. It is important to think carefully before you post any information online and remember that once something has been posted, it is almost impossible to undo.
Whilst family law proceedings can be stressful and frustrating, it is important to remember that the appropriate forum for addressing your concerns is through a lawyer, the Family Court of Australia or the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and not by venting or posting your frustrations online. If you are concerned about your legal obligations, make an appointment to speak with an experienced family lawyer.