Tina Norman is currently involved in financial remedy proceedings against her ex-husband Robert Norman. Ms Norman told Court of Appeal judges that she considered her financial affairs her “private business” and stated that there was no public interest in the press being able to reveal her identity.
Judges rejected her application and said that both Tina Norman and her ex-husband, could be named in any case reports.
Various press had objected to the application, saying that the fundamental British principle of open justice should prevail.
There has always been a certain amount of unease felt by many divorcing couples when it comes to settling their finances in open court – especially when there are large sums of money involved, which may be more likely to attract the interest of the media.
Since April 2009, the press have been able to attend family court proceedings. Although there are some restrictions as to how much detail the media can go into about what happens in court, many couples find that they cannot remain anonymous.
As this rejected application shows, court is not a place where things can ever be kept completely private. Although this may not matter to the vast majority of couples, high net worth individuals who have assets and investments throughout the world or people in the public eye, could struggle to keep their financial settlement private, when settling in British courts.
By resolving your finances through methods such as collaborative law, solicitor-to-solicitor negotiations or mediation, you may not need to go to court. These types of negotiations can all be done in private.
Another alternative is Arbitration. Arbitration is a way to settle the financial side of your divorce in the private sector, instead of in open public court.
The processes involved in arbitration are very similar to those used in public court, with all evidence and witnesses being agreed between you and your spouse before the arbitration hearing.
However, because this is a private hearing, the media and the public can be completely excluded from the arbitration process, enabling you to keep the details of your settlement completely private, if you wish.
Other benefits of arbitration include speed, choice of where and when the hearing takes place and flexibility about which parts of your financial settlement to include (if, for example, you have already come to an agreement on some elements).
Rejections of reporting restriction orders, like Tina Norman’s, could make arbitration become more popular for couples who wish to resolve their financial settlement away from the prying eyes of the press.
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