High Net Worth Individuals Being Forced into Divorce Settlements Due to Loss of Privacy

Kerry Smith

Kerry Smith
Head of Family at
K J Smith Solicitors

Couples who have a high net worth and a celebrity status are now having to choose negotiated divorce settlements in an attempt to avoid a court appearance as they could lose their privacy as many high profile divorce cases are now reported in the press.

This leads to sensitive information being leaked such as personal details, financial arrangements as well as the way in which their assets are divided.

If sensitive financial information is leaked to the press there is a real concern as it can lead to a security risk or even inform rival businesses of an individual’s financial position which can work against them.

Those individuals who have a high net worth can apply for a restriction to be put in place on any form of reporting via an application for privacy but this can often work to their disadvantage as all couples who apply for these applications have a responsibility to inform the press so that they have the opportunity to contest.

Where cases occur that involve an individual who has a high net worth instead of a celebrity, it can lead to unnecessary attention from the media especially if they are not obvious targets as it makes them aware of a divorce case that could be news worthy that they otherwise wouldn’t have been aware of.

Problems can also be made worse because individuals can also use the media to their advantage as it can lead to their ex-partner having to take an unfair settlement through making threats to proceed with a court hearing which can then lead to further exposure.

In April 2009, Journalists were allowed to sit in on most family law cases following many years of heated arguments.

Some family court judges also allowed a completely open court, however in some cases, where court cases involved the identity of a child or an adult who was vulnerable, the court would remain closed.

Many judges encourage transparency when it comes to the family courts but there are some who are against it which can lead to an increased level of inconsistency and conflicts.

There was one instance where Mr Justice Mostyn heavily criticised another judge known as Mr Justice Holman. He was criticised for giving his views on the restrictions put in place for the press because he believed that, that should only be granted access for a limited number of cases.

The issue is that there are no strict guidelines in place regarding what is allowed to be published and what isn’t which means that family law hearings and privacy applications do not ease the problem simply because the press can contest them.

Therefore, those high net worth couples who are considering separation, have to do all they can to ensure that their personal information is hidden from the eyes of the public through avoiding any court proceedings.

This can be made possible by family mediation or arbitration which enables both parties to come to a solution, whilst also avoiding any form of interest from the media.

This article was provided by family law specialists K J Smith Solicitors, an experienced family law firm operating in London, Reading, Henley-on-Thames, Guildford and Basingstoke.

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