We were recently asked to give advice to a client wanting to pursue payment of a judgment debt from a former partner who had been declared bankrupt. To do so we were asked if they were able to provide the judgment and reasons of their family law matter to their accountant and subsequently the trustee in bankruptcy. Additionally, we were asked to provide advice surrounding the calculation of interest on the judgment debt which we discuss HERE.
In the Federal Circuit Court and Family Court, the publishing of material from those proceedings are strictly anonymised. Any publication or dissemination of any identifying information is strictly prohibited, and a person can be subject to punishments including a year of imprisonment.
The section governing this law and exceptions are encompassed in Section 121 of the Family Law Act.
For the purposes of our advice, we referred to s 121(9)(f)(i). The section provides:
(9) The preceding provisions of this section do not apply to or in relation to:
(f) the publication or other dissemination of an account of proceedings or of any part of proceedings:
(i) to a person who is a member of a profession, in connection with the practice by that person of that profession or in the course of any form of professional training in which that person is involved.
More succinctly, if a person is providing a judgement and reasons to a professional (e.g. lawyer or accountant) for the purposes of them conducting their profession, including in relation to a bankruptcy, then this satisfies the above exemption.
Providing the judgement and reasons would be treated as an exemption to the provision. It must however only be to provide those documents to someone acting in a profession and using that information as part of their profession.
Interestingly, breaching the section does not necessarily open a person up to civil proceedings (being sued) directly under the Family Law Act but rather the more serious and severe criminal charges.