'Divorce with dignity' as a justification for publication restrictions on proceedings under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) in an era of litigant self-publication

Georgina Dimopoulos

Abstract


Upon its enactment, the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) closed the Family Court of Australia to the general public and imposed a total prohibition on the publication of proceedings. Such privacy protection, together with the advent of ‘no-fault’ divorce, were intended to serve the objective of ‘divorce with dignity’, by ridding divorce of its stigma which had made it a public spectacle and prime media fodder. In their current form, the publication restrictions imposed by section 121 of the Family Law Act prohibit the publication or dissemination of identifying details of family law proceedings. Adopting a personhood account of privacy, this paper asks whether the privacy protection embodied by section 121 remains justifiable in terms of human dignity, in light of the phenomenon of litigants self-publishing details of their family law litigation on digital and social media platforms. It explains how online self-publication by litigants may violate privacy and be an affront to dignity, and argues that, notwithstanding the privacy paradox, section 121 can still be justified by ‘divorce with dignity’ to which the Family Law Act aspired.


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References


A Articles/Books/Reports

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B Cases

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C Legislation

Family Law Amendment Act 1983 (Cth)

Family Law Act 1975 (Cth)

Matrimonial Causes Act 1959 (Cth)

D Other

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Commonwealth, Parliamentary Debates, House of Representatives, 28 February 1975

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