Some might say, the 8 year marriage of Liam Gallagher and Nicole Appleton may be just another column of gossip in the tabloids. However, their divorce proceedings do have implications for financial proceedings arising out of divorce for other high profile couples in the future.
News Group Newspapers (on behalf of The Sun) consider that simply being allowed to observe the court proceedings and being in court is not sufficient and argue that they should be allowed to publish certain facts from the hearing.
Mr Gallagher and Ms Appleton on the other hand agree that details of their divorce should not be published and, despite their differences, made a joint application to exclude the press from their financial hearing at the Central Family Court.
The hearing came before Mostyn J, who had imposed a temporary reporting restriction pending his judgment in the finance case. His judgment on the reporting restriction was subsequently published at Appleton and Gallagher v News Group & Others  EWHC 2689 (Fam).
Mostyn J confirmed that the law was currently unsatisfactory: “the law about the ability of the press to report ancillary relief proceedings which they are allowed to observe is a mess”.
Historically, family proceedings have always been conducted in private. The parties are under a duty not to disclose to third parties information obtained within those proceedings. This is considered an implied undertaking. Following any hearing a Judge could, if in the interest of the public or legal world, provide a judgment that would be published, but anonomised to avoid the parties’ identification.
However, in an effort to provide transparency in court proceedings, the Family Procedure Rules 2010 changed this and permitted the press (but not public) into proceedings held in private. The rule change meant the press could act as a watchdog on the judiciary and the process. The press were not entitled to documents and had restrictions upon what could be published.
In Re S  UKHL 47, Mostyn J considered the right to privacy and the right to unfettered freedom of expression and said “the press have to justify why the core privacy maintained and endorsed by Parliament should be breached. In ancillary relief proceedings the privacy side of the scales starts with a heavy weight upon it”.
By contrast, Holman J in Luckwell v Limata  EWHC 502 (Fam) was of the opinion that all proceedings are in open court and therefore open to both press and public.
Mostyn J in the Gallagher and Appleton case was satisfied that neither party had played out their divorce through the press, nor had any proceedings been made public by holding the hearing in open court and on that basis the significant reporting restrictions were imposed but the press were not excluded from the hearing.
The press have been given permission to appeal this matter and clearly there is a difference of opinion within our judiciary. We await clarification from the Court of Appeal in due course.
Whilst the majority of divorcing couples do not have celebrity status, the vast majority do not want significant amounts of detail about their personal and financial lives exposed to third parties. Whilst the reporting restrictions prevent the naming of any child and there are further restrictions in place generally, Mostyn J did say that the names of the parties and their representatives could be published along with such facts as could be ascertained from public records such as Companies House or the Land Registry.
Therefore for those individuals who do not want details of their marriage to appear in the national press or local newspapers, there are many options for resolving family disputes out of court, such as mediation, arbitration or collaborative law. The family lawyers at TLT will help to discuss all options with you before deciding on the best process to suit your circumstances.