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'Family law is generally poorly understood by the public (and the media). There are increasing numbers of unrepresented litigants in family court cases, and less access to legal advice. There is widespread mistrust of the family courts and the child protection system. Because family courts operate largely in private, media reports about them are an important route through which the public acquire their understanding of family law and procedure (along with the internet) – they cannot attend court in the way that is possible in other areas. However, much mainstream news and media reporting of family court cases is legally confused, factually highly selective or inaccurate. Although many judgments are publicly available, only cases with certain “newsworthy” characteristics reach the attention of the media. There is poor accessibility and low public understanding of how family law actually works, and a number of unhelpful and dangerous misconceptions and urban myths persist.
We found that we could not cover the volume of published cases and news reports that warranted responses. We were getting an increasing number of media enquiries. This funding will help us to respond to more cases and more stories, which we are really excited about.
We want to interact proactively with the press, encouraging and helping them to correct errors and to add links to judgments or other primary sources, and making suggestions for good reporting practice. We also would like the public to get involved - by telling us about cases that they have read about and find surprising or confusing.'
This work provides commentary, checklists, procedural guides and precedents on the subject in a...