PA challenge allows reporting of divorce 'house arrest'

The media was able to report the case of a woman embroiled in a divorce battle who overturned a court order which banned her from moving house after two applications by the Press Association.

A district judge overseeing divorce proceedings had ordered nearly two years ago that the woman, who has two children, should live at a specified address.

But Mr Justice Charles, sitting in the Family Division of the High Court, lifted the restriction after ruling that the woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, should be allowed to find work and support her children as she wished.

The woman had compared the restriction to being under "house arrest" and complained that it limited her chances of finding work, hampered her children's relationship with relatives, and left her struggling to pay bills.

Mr Justice Charles disagreed with the "house arrest" comparison but said at the High Court hearing: "It seems to me that she should have the opportunity to seek employment, and therefore to support herself and her children, as she wishes."

He heard that the restriction was part of a "prohibited steps order" made under section 8 of the Children Act 1989 by a district judge in 2010 – the woman's estranged husband lived near the specified address and the arrangement allowed him to have regular contact with the children.

The woman challenged the restriction yesterday at a private hearing in the family division of the High Court.

Mr Justice Charles gave permission for a journalist to attend the hearing following an application by Press Association reporter Brian Farmer, who then made a further request to be allowed to report parts of the proceedings, arguing that coverage would be in the public interest.

The judge said the woman and her children had to remain in England or Wales – within the jurisdiction of the High Court – while legal proceedings continued.

A further High Court hearing related to the divorce proceedings is scheduled for later this year.

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