The first Monday of the new year has come to be known as Divorce Day.
How you approach the breakdown of a relationship can hugely impact your outcomes, not least when it comes to costs. Arrangements for the children of the relationship can often be agreed upon without resorting to potentially costly court proceedings.
One mother recently resorted to crowdfunding when she couldn’t agree with the father about taking their children abroad. Before the webpage was deleted, she managed to crowdfund £3,350 on GoFundMe for her family proceedings.
In setting up her page, the mother published details of the court case – an application to take her children abroad to visit family. What may have seemed an ingenious move had an adverse effect in the courtroom.
Where the mother went wrong was in disclosing her name and those of the children on the web page, alongside a photo of them together. This was accompanied by accusations against the father of coercive and controlling behaviour, disclosing details of the applications she had made as part of the proceedings. These accusations were later dropped.
The judge held that the mother’s actions in publicising the proceedings were “wholly inappropriate”. Although the father had not been named, the Court held that he would be easily identifiable to anyone who knew of the family. The judge pointed out that this was in contempt of Court, as it is an offence to publish to the public anything “…intended or likely to identify any child as being involved in any proceedings before the Family Court”. Her indiscretion and error of judgment heightened the risk of the mother abducting the children once abroad. This demonstrated the potential to breach any further court order, deliberately or otherwise.
The judge refused the mother’s travel applications and implemented the father’s prohibited steps order, preventing the mother from taking their children to Malaysia and Hong Kong for 12 months.
Although the mother did not face criminal charges on this occasion, her conduct clearly influenced how she was perceived by the Court. The rules around confidentiality are fundamental, and her seemingly inadvertent breach of confidentiality was a relevant factor.
This case, however, highlights another issue: the difficulties in access to justice beyond the cuts to legal aid in 2012. Before you GoFundMe, speak to your specialist family solicitor about how a collaborative law approach can help you get to where you want to be.