We often read about celebrity divorces in magazines and online publications. As it often goes in gossip, the more drama, the better. Often our clients are worried about their personal affairs and private information becoming public, just like they have read in magazines.

Thankfully, the Family Law Act 1975 and Family Law Rules 2004 is there to protect your information!

Section 121 of the Family Law Act limits the publication of proceedings and lists of cases in the family law jurisdiction in Australia. However, there are several exceptions such as:

  • Any communication to persons concerned in a proceeding in any court, any pleading or transcript of evidence or other documents for use in connection with those proceedings;
  • Any communication of the same to authorities of States and Territories that have responsibilities related to the welfare of children and are prescribed by the regulation for this purpose;
  • Any communication of the same to a body or persons concerned that is responsible for disciplining members of the legal profession in a State or Territory;
  • Any communication of the same to a body that grants assistance by way of legal aid to facilitate the making of a decision as to whether assistance by way of legal aid should be grant continued or provided in a particular case;
  • The publishing of a notice or report in pursuance of the direction of a court;
  • The publishing by the court of lists of proceedings under the Act, identified by reference to the names of the parties that are to be dealt with by the court;
  • The publishing of any publication bona fide intended primarily for use by the members of any profession being a separate volume or part of a series of law reports or any other publication of a technical character;
  • The publication of other dissemination of an account of proceedings or any part of proceedings to a person or individual who is either a member of a profession in connection with the practice in the course of any form of professional training, a party to the proceedings or a student who is in connection with the studies of that person;
  • Publication of accounts of proceedings, where the court has approved those accounts; and
  • When the court authorises the publication of accounts of proceedings, including on the internet.

However, these publications are in de-identified form, meaning your and the other party’s name will not be printed to the public. Exceptions are subject to their application and may differ according to differences in time, locality, place, or circumstance. 

Offending section 121 of the Act is a punishable offence and can, after conviction, result in imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year.

Rule 24.13 of the Family Law Rules 2004 strictly limits the people allowed to search court records and copy documents related to a case or a person with proper interest with permission from the court.

This means your personal and private information generally stays between you, the court and your lawyer – away from public eyes.