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2.12.21

What can I tell my new partner about my divorce?

Can I tell my new partner that I’m getting divorced?

There are no restrictions on who you can tell about the fact that you are undergoing a divorce. The registration of a divorce is also a matter of public record in England and Wales, so any member of the public, once the divorce is finalised, can check the marital status of any other individual by requesting a copy of a decree absolute or final order from the Court, as outlined here.

Having said that, there are restrictions about with whom you can share information about the parties to a divorce process, including disclosed documents, financial information, and any solicitor correspondence. There are also rules restricting who can be present at court during family law proceedings and dictating how family law proceedings can be reported upon. These restrictions are serious and breaking them can have severe consequences, up to and including custodial sentences for contempt of court.

Can I share my divorce paperwork with my new partner?

Unlike proceedings in other legal areas, family law proceedings are private by default, under Family Procedure Rule 27.10.  This rule means that the general public have no right to be present at family law proceedings, unless the court decides otherwise. Likewise, the general public does not have a right to request, or even view, decisions or judgements of the court during or after proceedings.

From the court’s perspective, there is no distinction between your new partner and a member of the general public, unless your new partner is a party to the proceedings themselves. Consequently, your new partner has no right to have or access any information or paperwork regarding the proceedings. Any interim or final orders made by the court in relation to your financial remedy and/or children disputes are, by default, to be kept private between yourself and your ex-spouse and are not to be shared with anyone, including new partners.

Can I share my ex’s financial paperwork with my new partner?

During financial remedy proceedings, both parties are under an ongoing duty to the court to provide an accurate picture of their finances by disclosing documents to each other, including bank statements, pension values, and investment valuations. This is usually done simultaneously as an exchange of Forms E, but further documents must be disclosed if they are obtained or become relevant as proceedings continue.

Documents disclosed as part of proceedings are also private and so should only be shared between parties to the case and their legal representatives – there is an implied undertaking of confidentiality when you disclose documents in this way (Allan v Clibbery [2002] EWCA Civ 45). Consequently, you should not share any documents that have been disclosed to you by your ex-spouse with your new partner, whether as part of the Form E process, or via any other method. Sharing information in this way, without the court’s express permission, can amount to a breach of the implied undertaking and a contempt of court (which can result in a custodial sentence or fine).

Can my new partner come to court with me?

Court hearings can be a daunting prospect and so it is only natural to want to bring along people to provide you with support, including, potentially, your new partner. Court buildings are public places and so you are generally allowed to bring whomever you wish to bring with you to the justice centre or court complex on the day of your hearing.

However, due to the private nature of family proceedings, your supporters will not be allowed into the courtroom itself and will be unable to ‘sit in’ on the proceedings, unless the court has already ruled otherwise. Moreover, given that the object of proceedings is to resolve the disputes between the parties, it is not always a good idea to bring your new partner along (even to ‘sit it out’ in a waiting room) in the first place. If there are underlying issues between your new partner and your ex-spouse, for example, it may not be productive for anybody to inflame matter further by having them meet, even accidentally in a public corridor, on the day.

Can my new partner be my McKenzie Friend?

If you are representing yourself in family proceedings, then you can apply to be granted a ‘McKenzie Friend’ – a non-lawyer who can assist by going into the courtroom with you, making notes, quietly making suggestions to you, and giving advice.

An application for a McKenzie Friend would be made to the judge and would confirm that the potential McKenzie Friend in question understands their role, that they understand the duty of confidentiality, and, crucially, that they have no interest in the case themselves and are not assisting you for an improper reason. While there is a strong presumption that you will be allowed a McKenzie Friend, it is possible for the court to consider that your new partner may have an undue interest in the case, or that they are assisting you for an improper purpose (e.g. in order to gain access to court documents) given their relationship to you, and so consider them unsuitable to be a McKenzie Friend.

Can I share my financial or Children Act order with my new partner?

Any orders made by the court during family law proceedings are normally private between the parties, so you should not share them with anyone, unless they are a party themselves.

There are obvious instances where a new partner may gain an understanding of the terms of, for example, a financial order. Monthly payments to or from your ex-spouse, the sale of property, and the division of assets are all events that are potentially difficult, if not impossible, to keep private from a new partner. While it may be unavoidable that your new partner gets an idea of what the terms of an order are, the order itself is still private and so you should not share a copy of it with your new partner.

 

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Legal Disclaimer

Articles are intended as an introduction to the topic and do not constitute legal advice.


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