Anonymity in family court proceedings is often a concern for those engaged in the court process.

Exposing one’s personal circumstances or assets undoubtedly feels like the most serious invasion of privacy imaginable. Yet, the principle of openness of the English and Welsh legal system ensures transparency, and protects the integrity of the legal system as a publicly available recourse. So, how is this managed in practice?

Anonymity in Family Court Proceedings

At Watson Morris we work with our clients in all areas of family law including areas such as anonymity in family court proceedings and ways to work around achieving this for our clients.

Here’s how anonymity is managed in practice.


Family court proceedings relating to marital finances are, in part, one exception to the principle of openness in the English and Welsh courts. Any hearings within such proceedings are private and there exists an implied confidentiality duty on all parties to such proceedings. No party should share confidential information disclosed in those proceedings, outside of those proceedings (Clibbery v Allan [2002] EWCA Civ 45).

Where a case relates to a child or children, such as who is to care for a child or how often a parent is to spend time with a child, strict confidentiality applies, and such proceedings are anonymised from the public and dealt with entirely in private, hence the reason for anonymity in family court proceedings.  This ensures absolute protection for the children involved.


Whilst it may seem contrary to the private nature of the hearings in cases relating to marital finances, media reporting of judgments is permitted, albeit such reporting is governed strictly to ensure confidentiality remains. Reporting ensures transparency and openness of the legal system. Judgments can then be redacted or subjected to a reporting restriction order (RRO) to maintain confidentiality.

The judiciary has moved a step further in the reporting of marital financial cases: Mostyn J has proposed that any form of anonymisation should be abandoned, unless it is done to protect children. The case of Xanthopoulos v Rakshina [2023] EWFC 50 clarifies a commitment to the openness of the legal system, even in marital finance cases. In this case the parties were named, although all other members of the family and the children remained unspecified, providing some anonymity in family court proceedings.

Exceptions to openness

RROs and anonymity orders (AOs) can still be made, but it will be up to the party seeking anonymity to prove that it is necessary. The court will then apply a balancing approach between article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) (right to private and family life), article 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 (right to fair trial) and article 10 of the ECHR (freedom of expression). The outcome of this balance will decide whether anonymity will be applied, or not.


There is presently some lack of clarity in the judicial system as to whether or not marital financial cases should remain anonymised. On the one hand we have Mostyn J’s approach of non-anonymisation. On the other, Holman J sits in open court to hear marital financial cases.

Official guidance from the Financial Remedy Court Transparency Group in June 2023 proposes that anonymity and privacy remains in marital financial proceedings, but that judgments can still be reported but in a standardised way which still protects sensitive information of the involved parties.It is hoped that the Court of Appeal will be able to offer this guidance on how the issues currently at hand should be decided.

Anonymity in family court proceedings in practice

It is imperative that practitioners and prospective users of the family court remain aware of developments in reporting and anonymity in family court proceedings, particularly in marital financial proceedings.

It is incumbent on lawyers to make their clients aware of the risks that their case could be reported on and their names published and put in the public eye. Being prepared for such an eventuality will allow for proper planning to avoid any unwanted publication through seeking an RRO or AO.

Watson Morris are monitoring developments in this area and will publish an update once further guidance is issued. If you have any concerns or questions about privacy or anonymity in a family court proceedings, please contact Greg Bowyer at or call us for a free no obligation discussion to see how we can help.

Written by Greg Bowyer

August 10, 2023

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