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Can the Public Attend Court Hearings (NSW): What You Should Know

can the public attend court hearings (nsw) | Justice Family Lawyers

In New South Wales, most family law court hearings are closed to the public to protect the privacy of the people involved. This means only the parties, their lawyers, and witnesses can be in the courtroom. However, there are some exceptions.

In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at who can attend court hearings and under what circumstances. We’ll discuss the importance of open justice and how it balances protecting privacy. We’ll also provide some tips on what to do if you’re interested in attending a family law court hearing.

When can the public attend court hearings in NSW?

While family law court hearings are generally closed to the public, there are situations where you can attend. These include:

  • Cases involving child protection: Hearings related to the care and protection of children in the Children’s Court may be open to the public, although the court has the discretion to close the court if it is in the best interests of the child or for other reasons specified in the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 (NSW).
  • Appeals: Appeal hearings in family law cases in the Family Court of Australia or the Federal Circuit Court of Australia are usually open to the public unless the court orders otherwise. This allows for greater transparency and scrutiny of the legal process.
  • With the court’s permission: In rare cases, the court may grant permission for members of the public to attend a hearing that is typically closed, if it is in the interests of justice and transparency. However, this is at the court’s discretion and is not common.

It’s important to note that even if a hearing is open to the public, the court may still impose restrictions, such as prohibiting the publication of identifying information about the parties or witnesses.

If you’re unsure whether a particular hearing is open to the public, you can contact the court registry for more information.

Can I attend a court hearing if I’m not involved in the case?

In most cases, you cannot attend a family law court hearing if you’re not directly involved in the case. Family law proceedings are generally private due to the sensitive nature of the issues involved, such as children, relationships, and financial matters.

The principle of “open justice” applies more to criminal and civil proceedings in other courts, rather than family law proceedings which prioritise privacy.

Also read: What Happens at an AVO Court Hearing?

How can I find out if a court hearing is open to the public?

To determine if a specific family law court hearing is open to the public in NSW, you have a few options:

  1. Check the court’s website: Many courts list their daily or weekly schedules online, indicating whether hearings are open or closed. Look for terms like “open court,” “public hearing,” or “closed court” next to the case listing.
  2. Contact the court registry: The court registry can provide details about the case and its accessibility to the public. They can also advise you on the specific rules and protocols for attending hearings.
  3. Ask the parties involved: If you know someone involved in the case, you can inquire about the hearing’s status. However, be mindful of their privacy and respect their decision if they don’t wish to share details.
  4. Consult a legal professional: If you have specific questions or concerns, seeking advice from a family court lawyer can be helpful. They can guide you through the process and explain the relevant legal principles.

Remember that even if a hearing is open to the public, certain restrictions may still apply. For instance, you might not be allowed to record the proceedings or take photographs inside the courtroom. It’s essential to follow the court’s rules and maintain decorum to ensure a fair and respectful environment for everyone involved.

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