5.2 Family Court

Accredited media can usually attend Family Court hearings unless the Act under which the proceedings are brought provides otherwise.

Media can in instances report these proceedings without the leave of a judge, provided they do not include identifying information where either a person under the age of 18 or a vulnerable person is the subject of, party to, or is referred to in the proceedings.

This is covered by sections 11B-11D of the Family Court Act 1980.

A Family Court judge may require media to leave a hearing at any time. The judge may also seek the view of parties to proceedings about reporters being present.

The Court’s jurisdiction is wide and largely civil. It hears applications relating to care of children, care and protection and domestic violence; matters relating to adoption, surrogacy and child abduction; and disputes involving relationship property and estates of deceased persons. It also hears matters related to the treatment of people with mental illness, intellectual disability and substance addictions held in compulsory care and those who are incapacitated and not able to make decisions concerning their own care because of their age and/or disability.

Some hearings may involve more than one statute, each with different reporting restrictions. Care is needed so that reporting one aspect of a case does not inadvertently breach prohibitions or restrictions that apply in another matter, under a different law.

Anything published as a result of a Family Court hearing where there are children or vulnerable people must not include names or any information that would be likely to identify:

  • the children
  • the parents
  • others involved in the case (such as support people for the parents)
  • the vulnerable person
  • witnesses
  • speakers on cultural issues.

The use of cameras or sound recording equipment in the Family Court is at the discretion of the judge and follows the application process set out in the In-court Media Coverage Guidelines.

Media should advise the registrar in advance if they intend to attend Family Court. The judge and counsel like to know in advance if media will be present. Media need to arrive early so court staff can establish that they understand the reporting restrictions and to arrange seating, as there may not be a press bench in a Family Court courtroom.

Family Court lists displayed outside courtrooms are subject to the same reporting restrictions as information produced at a hearing.

Journalists who wish to interview parties to a case after it is disposed of need to be mindful that any statutory prohibitions remain in place, irrespective of a party’s view about being identified.

Reports from Family Court proceedings may be published in professional or technical journals as long as the reports do not include identifying information. Decisions published on the District Court website are anonymised.

More information about covering Family Court can be found in this guide from the Principal Family Court Judge.

You can find further information about publishing information from the Family Court here.

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