5.4 Family Court

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Media may attend a hearing of any proceedings in a Family Court (unless the Act under which the proceedings are brought provides otherwise).

The rules allow for the publication of Family Court proceedings without the leave of a judge, providing that it does not include identifying information of the participants or subject of the proceedings where there are children or vulnerable people involved. Section 11D of the Family Courts Act 1980 defines who is a vulnerable person in the Family Court.

Accredited media provisions

You may attend a Family Court hearing under the Care of Children Act 2004 if you are employed by an accredited media organisation.

A media organisation will be accredited if the organisation is subject to a code of ethics or professional standards and a relevant complaint procedure. Media organisations that wish to be accredited should make an application to the General Manager, District Courts.

The Ministry holds a registry database of accredited media organisations and if you wish to cover a Family Court hearing and you are asked, you will need to produce either a press identification or a letter from your organisation introducing you as a bona fide member of that organisation's staff, and your personal identification. In the case of commissioned writers, the letter should introduce you as a bona fide representative.

It would be helpful if you could arrive at court about 15 minutes early so that court staff can check the name of your employer organisation against the database of Ministry-accredited media organisations.

Freelance media personnel and media researchers need to seek permission from the judge on a case-by-case basis in order to enter and report on the court. Please apply to the court with your name and reason for attending in advance to allow time for the judge to consider your request.

If you are not able to verify that you are a bona fide representative of an accredited organisation and you do not have evidence of permission from the judge, court staff may not allow you into the Family Court.

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Once you have been verified as accredited media, court staff will provide you with a sticker to wear with the word MEDIA and the day's date. This sticker authorises you to attend all Care of Children Act 2004 hearings in that court that day.

Please wear your media sticker so it is clearly visible to everyone in court to identify you to the parties and others involved in the proceedings.

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In court

The use of cameras or sound recording equipment in the Family Court is at the discretion of the judge.

During the hearing, if the judge asks you to leave you are obliged to do so.

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Restrictions on reporting and publication

The ability to attend the Family Court does not mean there is a right to publish a report of the proceedings without restrictions.

Reports of Family Court proceedings can be published without leave of the judge if they do not include identifying information of the participants or subject of the proceedings where there are children or vulnerable people involved.

Media are able to report on relationship property cases with identifying information providing that any children involved are not identified.

Anything you publish 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.

Requests for permission to publish any other details must be made to the judge, who may ask the parties and the lawyer for the child for their views before making a decision on what may be published. If permission to publish is granted, conditions may also apply to the publishing of this information.

Reports from Family Court proceedings may also be published in professional or technical journals and circulated among people with a professional interest in the case, as long as the reports do not include identifying information. The Family Courts Act 1980 defines the groups of people such publications would be intended for as being members of the legal or medical profession, officers of the public service, psychologists or advisors in the sphere of relationship counselling or social work.

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Court lists

Family Court lists are displayed outside the Family Court rooms. The information on the court list will include identifying information and it is subject to the same reporting restrictions as information produced at a hearing.

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Media and reporting protocol guide

This guide by the Principal Family Court Judge [PDF, 253 KB] aims to assist reporters who wish to cover Family Court proceedings in an accurate, fair and balanced way.

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