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.