It always seems that celebrity divorces make headlines wherever they occur in the world. Lately, we have heard about the Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes split. On a local front we have heard about the much publicised break up between Grant Hackett and his wife and we now have a reality show about Lara Bingle who previously had a much publicised break up from her former fiancé and captain of the Australian cricket team, Michael Clarke.
Also, more recently we have had the case of the four Italian girls removed from Italy by their mother who are now trying to stay in Australia and resist attempts for the return of the children to Italy pursuant to the Hague Convention.
What can be Reported in Australia?
In Australia, the reporting and publication of divorce proceedings is severely restricted due to the existence of Section 121 of the Family Law Act 1975. This section makes it an offence punishable by imprisonment for any person who publishes in a newspaper, by radio broadcast or television or by any other electronic means or otherwise disseminates to the public by any means any account of proceedings or part of proceedings that identifies a party to the proceedings or a person related to or associated with a party to proceedings or alleged to be in any way concerned with the proceedings and any witness in the proceedings.
The section is drafted in a wide manner and ramifications of its breach are severe.
Whilst there can be no doubt that the reporting of such high profile celebrity divorces and other controversial matters sells papers, the fact remains that in Australia we do have laws that severely limit the publication and dissemination of such information once proceedings commence in Court.
Thinking of the Children
There are many reasons and justification for such restrictions to be applied in relation to Family Law Court proceedings. First and foremost, children are the innocent victims of divorce. The fact is that children do not want their parents to separate and usually desire both of their parents to be together. They do not have the maturity and understanding to grasp what is really going on between their parents nor do they wish to understand such complicated dynamics.
The reporting of a child’s parent’s dispute in Court and the dissemination of this to the public causes enormous stress and has profound psychiatric impacts upon children. They could be ridiculed by classmates and they then become a pawn in a much bigger game rather than the sad dispute between their parents.
Keeping things Confidential
In our opinion, all separations between couples in any relationship should be kept highly confidential and discrete. The reason for this is that separations are sad and highly personal. We never know the real reasons and motivations behind an individual’s decision to separate. In fact, it is none of our business as to why individuals separate and as to what goes on in their relationship.
As members of the public, what right do we have to know about the personal conduct of one spouse towards another or as to why their marriage broke up? Is it something that will provide benefit to us by knowing this? – Of course not.
Therefore, although many in the public would no doubt like to hear these sordid details about every proceeding before the Family Court, we thankfully have a set of laws that makes that almost impossible to occur.