K J Smith Solicitors

Loss of privacy is forcing high net worth couples into negotiated divorce settlements

Published: 8 October 2015

High net worth and celebrity couples are now opting for negotiated divorce settlements to avoid going to court for fear of losing their privacy, with many high profile divorce cases being reported in the press and sensitive information like personal details, financial arrangements and the division of assets being revealed to the public.

One of the main concerns is the damage it may cause if sensitive financial information is leaked in the press, as it may put some individuals at a security risk or alert rival businesses to an individuals' financial situation, putting them at a commercial disadvantage.

High net worth individuals can apply for a restriction on reporting through a privacy application however this can sometimes backfire, as any couple applying for such applications have an obligation to make the press aware so they have the chance to contest the restrictions.

In cases involving high net worth individuals rather than celebrities, this can bring unwanted attention from the media if the couple are not obvious targets for the press, by alerting them to a potentially news worthy case when it may have otherwise gone unnoticed.

What can make matters worse in some cases is that individuals can use the media to their advantage by forcing their ex-partner to accept an unfair settlement, by threatening to go to court and therefore exposing their case and personal details to the press.

After years of heated debates, journalists were finally allowed to sit in on most family law hearings following changes to legislation in April 2009, with some family court judges allowing a completely open court apart from cases where the identity of a child or vulnerable adult needs to be protected. Whilst some judges welcome transparency in the family courts, there are others that are opposed to it, which makes the views of the judiciary inconsistent and conflicting. 

One example is a case involving Mr Justice Mostyn and his heavy criticism of fellow judge Mr Justice Holman. Holman J was criticised for sharing his views on press restrictions, as he believed that they should only be allowed in a limited number of cases.

Mr Justice Mostyn, commenting about the press reporting in the ancillary relief case between ex-Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher and Nicole Appleton said, "To say that the law about the ability of the press to report ancillary relief proceedings which they are allowed to observe is a mess would be a serious understatement."

The main problem is that there aren't any strict guidelines as to what can or can't be published by the press in relation to the details of a family law hearing, and privacy applications don't solve the problem as they can be contested by the press.

The best solution for a high net worth couple who are thinking about separation is to try and keep their personal information out of the public eye by avoiding court proceedings where possible.  This can be achieved through either family mediation or arbitration by allowing both parties to come to an amicable solution without it being printed in the papers.

If you are thinking about separation or divorce then K J Smith Solicitors are here to help.  Our team of family law specialists will work with you to deliver practical advice on the best course of action to take. To discuss your circumstances with a member of our team, contact K J Smith Solicitors today for a free 45 minute consultation on 01491 630000 (Henley on Thames), 020 7070 0330 (London), 0118 418 1000 (Reading), 01753 325000 (Windsor), 01256 584000 (Basingstoke) or 01483 370100 (Guildford) or email info@kjsmith.co.uk.

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