Disclosure of documents from family court proceedings

Only recently, a paralegal in a Hounslow law firm got in trouble for disclosing paperwork from family proceedings to a third party by submitting them to the Immigration Tribunal. The case is known as Re Nasrullah Mursalin [2019] EWCA Civ 1559, and the poor paralegal was sentenced to six months imprisonment (although the Court of Appeal later quashed the sentence).

Does it mean that the documents from my family proceedings cannot be used for anything else?

Certainly not. Your legal advisor needs to follow certain rules to have the privacy of your family proceedings lifted to your advantage. Under the Family Procedure Rules (FPR) at 27.10, family proceedings are generally conducted in private, in particular those that concern the welfare and upbringing of children. In addition to that, pursuant to section 12 of the Administration of Justice Act 1960 and Rule 12.73 of the FPR, the disclosure of such documents, for example to an Immigration Tribunal judge, would be a contempt of court unless the Family Court has given permission for the disclosure.

A contempt is only established if the person, also called the publisher, knew they were giving information relating to court proceedings and that the proceedings were private proceedings. Now, a definition of publication was set out by Munby J Kent County Council, Re B (A Child) v the Mother & Ors [2004] EWHC 411 and is rather wide. However, what the immigration practitioners should take from it is that dissemination of information to the Home Office, i.e. public body, does amount to publication and could be perceived as contempt of court.

What documents can I use?

Re B Munby goes on to establish two classes of documents:

  • Documents that cannot be published under section 12 without the permission of the court, such as accounts of what has gone on in front of the judge sitting in private or affidavits, witness statements, reports, or other documents filed in the proceedings, transcripts or notes of the evidence or submissions, and any extracts, summaries or quotations from such documents;
  • Documents that are not caught by section 12 and can be published without permission, such as the publication of the fact, that a child is a ward of court or that a child is the subject of proceedings to his maintenance or upbringing. The list further allows:

– the name, address or photograph of such a child, the parties to the proceedings or the witnesses;

–  the date, time or place of a past or future hearing of such proceedings and their nature;

– the party on whose behalf such a witness has given evidence; and

– the text or summary of the whole or part of any order made in such proceedings.

How do I get the documents I need?

Firstly, try to obtain the consent of the other parties to the family proceedings, so a Consent Order can be drawn up and approved by the family court. If you are unable to obtain the consent, then you will need to make an application seeking disclosure of a limited list of documents. The application attracts a court fee and needs to be accompanied by a detailed statement.

If you need advice related to disclosure of documents from family court proceedings, please contact LF Legal today on 0203 146 3549 / [email protected]

Disclaimer

All our articles are intended for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information provided.

Like this article? Share on

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on linkedin
Linkdin
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on telegram
Telegram
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp

Related articles

Information about our own complaints process, raising concerns to the Legal Ombudsman and to us

We want to give you the best possible service. However, if at any point you become unhappy or concerned about the service we provided then you should inform us immediately, so that we can do our best to resolve the problem.

In the first instance it may be helpful to contact the person who is working on your case to discuss your concerns and we will do our best to resolve any issues at this stage. If you would like to make a formal complaint, then you can read our full complaints procedure here. Making a complaint will not affect how we handle your case.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority can help you if you are concerned about our behaviour. This could be for things like dishonesty, taking or losing your money or treating you unfairly because of your age, a disability or other characteristic. 

You can raise your concerns with the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

What do to if we cannot resolve your complaint

The Legal Ombudsman can help you if we are unable to resolve your complaint ourselves. They will look at your complaint independently and it will not affect how we handle your case.

Before accepting a complaint for investigation, the Legal Ombudsman will check that you have tried to resolve your complaint with us first. If you have, then you must take your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman:

  • Within six months of receiving a final response to your complaint; and,
  • No more than six years from the date of act/omission; or
  • No more than three years from when you should reasonably have known there was cause for complaint.
  • If you would like more information about the Legal Ombudsman, please contact them.

 Contact details

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By closing this message, you consent to our cookies on this device in accordance with our cookie policy unless you have disabled them.