Divorce in Hong Kong
Divorce in Hong KongUpdated on Sunday 01st November 2020
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When couples decide to end a marriage in Hong Kong they need to offer reasonable grounds in order to be able to file for divorce. The Hong Kong courts will accept certain causes as in order to consider that the marriage is irretrievably broken down. Adultery, desertion, consented separation or unreasonable behavior are some of the cases for divorce in Hong Kong.
Our divorce lawyer in Hong Kong can provide specialized services concerning family law. Working with a lawyer can be important, especially when the wellbeing of the children is discussed, and when alimony and child support is determined. A lawyer is also able to help the parties negotiate accordingly and set the grounds for the division of property (and debts).
The experts at our law firm in HK will be able to assist you throughout the divorce procedure and legally represent you in court.
Grounds for divorce in Hong Kong
Although there may be many reasons why a marriage has broken down, when couples want to file for divorce they will need reasonable cause to do so and will also need to provide the relevant proof that will sustain their cause. The simple separation of the spouses for more than one year will not be reason enough for the court to accept that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.
Spouses that have agreed to a consented divorce/separation will need to prove in court that they have been separated and that they had both agreed upon this. When adultery is the grounds for the separation the party filing for divorce will need to prove in court that the other party has wronged him or her. Unreasonable behavior can also be considered a cause for divorce in Hong Kong.
Couples who are dealing with family issues can seek specialized services from the Social Welfare Department. It is often advisable to explore the options that are available for resolving the various disputes that may arise in the relationship before reaching out to a divorce lawyer in HK, such as the ones from our team. Counseling may be an option and in some cases, the judge may ask the parties if they have attempted to utilize some of these options before filing for divorce.
Family mediation is also an option for couples who have started the divorce procedure and with to reach mutually favorable arrangements. This can be a recommended procedure especially when children are involved and it is based on seeking specialized assistance from a trained third party. Our divorce lawyer in Hong Kong can give you more details if family mediation is an option for you.
Couples should keep in mind that unless the court allows otherwise the petition for divorce may be filed only after one year of marriage.
The place of marriage is not as important when seeking to divorce in Hong Kong. The former couple may have been married in another jurisdiction, however, as long as the marriage is a valid one and proof can be brought to sustain this, the divorce procedure can commence. At least one of the parties needs to be domiciled in Hong Kong at the time of the application (or one of them needs to have been a habitual resident for at least 3 years before the divorce application date). Alternatively, at least one of the parties needs to have a substantial connection to Hong Kong at the date of the application.
Our divorce lawyers in Hong Kong can help you check how you comply with these requirements if you are no longer domiciled in Hong Kong, especially for those couples who have been separated for some time before the commencement of the divorce or for foreigners.
Steps for getting divorced in Hong Kong
The divorce procedure starts with a petition for divorce. In order to start the divorce proceedings, the spouse that initiates the procedure will need to fill in a number of forms concerning the grounds for divorce, the arrangements for the children (if applicable), the financial statement for financial disputes (if any) and other forms. The couple can also choose to file a joint application for divorce.
Our divorce lawyer in Hong Kong summarizes the main steps below:
- Start the petition: as previously mentioned, the applicant starts by filling in the petition form, the statement for the arrangements for the children (if needed), the notice of proceedings, the statement of truth as well as other forms;
- Serve the petition: the next step is for the petition to be delivered to the spouse; the one that initiates the divorce is the petitioner and the other will be the respondent; the petition must be served to the respondent by a third party. After this step is complete, an application must be submitted in order to set a court hearing date.
- Apply to the Registrar: the next step is to apply to the Registrar so that the case of setting down for trial; the application for this step is issued by the Family Court Registry;
- Special or defended list: the case is set down either in the Special Procedure List of the Defended List, depending on whether or not the respondent has filed the answer;
- Final decision: once the court has granted the decree nisi (the court order that will be later enforced) the petitioner can apply for the decree to be made absolute by filing a special form.
Our divorce lawyer in Hong Kong can give you more details about the procedure as well as the final step of making the divorce final. Our attorney will assist you each step of the way and will help you apply for the decree that makes the court decision absolute. This final step means that the petitioner will need to fill in a notice of application for decree nisi to be made absolute.
The easiest way to handle a divorce or other family matters is to hire an attorney. Our divorce lawyers in Hong Kong can provide all of the needed services in case you want to file for divorce or need help with other issues.
Children’s’ issues after divorce in Hong Kong
In the case of divorce in Hong Kong, special consideration is given to the children, if the former couple has any. The main issues to deal with in this case are listed below by our divorce lawyer in HK:
- Custody: this can be joint or sole; in general, joint custody is encouraged as it is beneficial for the child; siblings will not be separated;
- Visiting rights: the manner in which the parents will spend time with the child;
- Childcare: the parent with whom the child will live as well as joint parental responsibility issues such as the education that the child will follow;
- Child maintenance: this is also known as financial support and it is determined by mutual agreement between the parents or by a court decision; the payments can be periodical or they can be awarded in a lump sum; according to law, these payments are awarded for minor children, only as long as they are under 8 years old.
Child maintenance can extend in some cases after the individual has turned 18 when he or she is undergoing a form of education or training or when there are special circumstances (the child is disabled, for example). The court may decide when it is appropriate that the financial support will continue beyond the age of 18.
These issues can be addressed via mediation or negotiation and a lawyer can represent each parent. This approach is encouraged whenever possible as it is less time-consuming and it involves fewer costs.
When awarding custody to one or both parties, the Court can take the following into consideration:
- the situation in which the status quo will be preserved for the child (the scenario in which the child’s stability is affected as little as possible);
- the ages of the parents and that of the child;
- the parent’s capabilities and mental health;
- the accommodation that will be available to the child’
- the child’s own wishes, if expressed and if applicable;
- external reports from third parties such as school or medical reports as well as the observations of the court welfare officer about the general family situation.
Our divorce lawyer in HK can give you more information about these important factors. While all of these issues are important and are taken into consideration, they are not the only ones the Court may look into when determining custody. Each case is different and this is why we recommend seeking specialized legal assistance in divorce matters involving child custody. One of our lawyers is able to provide you with all of the needed details on the applicable laws and will also offer you a case evaluation, as needed.
The distribution of assets after divorce in Hong Kong
The division of assets following divorce is generally performed in a 50/50 manner, however, special consideration will be given to the fairness of the distribution, based on each party’s situation. The Court shall take into consideration a number of factors, such as:
- the earning capacity and current income for each of the former spouses;
- the current and foreseeable financial needs and obligations of each party;
- the age of the individuals, their age when the marriage was concluded and their age at the divorce date;
- any disabilities the parties may have;
- the family’s general standard of living and each party’s contribution to the former family’s welfare.
The aim of the Court is to issue a fair arrangement for the parties, however, this applies in those cases in which no former arrangement exists between the former spouses, such as prenuptial agreement. In those cases in which a third party contributed to a certain purchase that took place during the marriage, the Court will see of the third party has a claim on the property as per the contribution percentage (for example, when the spouses each contributed with a certain amount for purchasing real estate and they also received funds from a third party who may be a friend or family member).
Our divorce lawyer in Hong Kong can offer you more details on the distribution of assets after a divorce.
Our team invites you to watch a short video on the divorce process in Hong Kong:
Additional information about divorce in Hong Kong
When filing for divorce, the parties will also need to take into consideration the applicable fees as well as the waiting time. The list below, presented by our divorce lawyer in HK, highlights the main waiting time for the performance of the pledge, the duration that can be expected from setting down for trial to the actual hearing:
- 50 days: for those cases that are included on the special procedure list; in this case, the application fee is 630 HKD:
- 110 days: for cases that are included on the defended list; in this situation, the application fee is 1,045 HKD;
- 110-14- days: the duration that is to be expected for the financial applications, from setting down to hearing with the included 1-day for the hearing;
- 30 days: the usual period during which the Judiciary responds to correspondence from the public.
Please note that these periods are indicated by the Hong Kong Judiciary and, in practice, the time may vary from one case to another.
We recommend reaching out to one of our attorneys specializing in divorce in all cases, however, there are certain special situations in which the help of a divorce lawyer in Hong Kong is even more important. This can be when the spouse does not agree for the divorce or when the parties cannot reach an agreement on financial manners or the matters concerning the children.
Couples in Hong Kong who are currently living in special conditions, more specifically in Public Rental Housing, are required to contact the Housing Department after the divorce is final. The Department will then decide on the manner in which the tenancy on the flat will continue and for this purpose, the individual circumstances of the couple (and whether or not they have children) will be taken into consideration.
The financial and lifestyle implications of divorce in Hong Kong should be taken into consideration before the petitioner decided to file. Our divorce lawyer in Hong Kong will help you consider the financial obligations to your spouse and the children before you file for divorce as well as assist you in the procedures that concern the distribution of assets, including those that are owned overseas.
Please contact our Hong Kong lawyers for detailed information about the divorce procedures as well as other issues that are related to Family Law.