Impact Of Divorce On Your Children

Children are resilient and it is true that in divorce, your child will adjust to the new normal that is established between you and your co-parent.  It is important however, to remember that even if your child is adjusting well to a divorce, there are things you can do as a parent to help them adjust to the changes in a more seamless and healthy way.  Here are some tips to consider to help ease the adjustment for your children in a divorce:

  1. Do Not Involve The Children In The Divorce Process: One way to help your children adjust to the divorce is not to involve them in the divorce process.  Many times, parents involve their children in a divorce by divulging details about the legal proceedings and the emotional difficulties the parent is facing in the divorce.  It is important not to involve your children in the divorce because when you do involve them, it will cloud the way they see the other parent and this is not healthy for their relationship with the other parent.  This could also be used as ammunition against you in legal proceedings and be classified as parental alienation.  Rather than focus on the litigation fight, focus instead on the bigger picture.  You and your ex-spouse will have to co-parent with one another for the rest of your lives.  You will both want to be at your child’s wedding and will want to have an ongoing relationship with them forever.  It is better to be at peace with your ex-spouse in the co-parenting journey rather than fight with one another and be embroiled in drama that is unnecessary and unhealthy for all individuals involved.   Importantly, children are too young to understand the legal complexities of divorce. It is already difficult for adults to understand the legal issues in a divorce so imagine how hard it must be for children to understand it.  If you want emotional support, rather than turn to the children, reach out instead to other family members or trusted friends to provide the support you need.
  2. Promote and Facilitate Open Communication: As a co-parent it is imperative that you facilitate and encourage open communication. This includes open communication between the co-parent and the children,  but it is also helpful if as co-parents, you are able to openly communicate with each other in cordial and friendly way.  The way in which you communicate with one another will have a great impact on the way your children will view you and how they deal with their own relationships in the future.  If you are involved in a litigious divorce and open communication is difficult, you do not have to apologize for the fact that communication is impossible with the co-parent. However, you can still encourage open communication and relationship between the co-parent and the children.  Regardless of what you are feeling and the intense emotions you may have for the other parent, it should not impact the love and relationship you encourage between the children and the other parent.  You want your child to have a good relationship with the other parent as it will impact their development.  Having a strained or non-existent relationship with a parent will only have dire effects on a child and their future relationships going forward.
  3. Consider Spending Time Together As A Family: This is a controversial tip however a good one to consider. It may be difficult, and almost impossible in some broken families to continue to spend time together as a family unit after a divorce, but it can be done.  When it is done in a healthy way, the outcome can be beautiful and wonderful healthy relationships can be forged on the basis that even though “mommy and daddy” have divorced, there is still friendship.  By establishing a friendship post-divorce with your ex-spouse, you are demonstrating to the children that the family is available to support him/her and that the family love is not lost.  It may take time to achieve a healthy and peaceful dynamic but it is worth considering reaching for this post-divorce family goal!

Do not be shy about speaking with your solicitor on his/her tips on how to forge a healthy family dynamic post-divorce. Your divorce solicitor is not only there to provide you with legal advice but he/she can also provide you with tips on how to have a healthy divorce rather than a litigious divorce. If your divorce solicitor only encourages litigation and division among the family, you may want to consider another divorce solicitor, one who is more focused on helping you achieve a healthy dynamic post-divorce.

Considerations for Child Arrangements Ahead Of The Holidays

The holidays are fast approaching and for many, holiday plans have already been organized and tickets purchased to travel outside of Hong Kong.  Hong Kong quarantine restrictions have loosened to the point that many individuals have taken this opportunity to fly out of Hong Kong after almost 3 years of heavy travel restrictions and hotel quarantine.

In addition to booking tickets and accommodation for the upcoming holidays, it is important that you also consider children’s arrangements if you are involved in a divorce and have to share custody/visitation of the children.

In preparation for the upcoming holiday season, here are some things to consider and discuss with your solicitor before you take the flight out of Hong Kong:

  1. Clarify and Confirm Children’s Arrangements Ahead Of The Holidays: To avoid conflict with your spouse over the holidays, make sure that you are aware of the dates you are entitled to have the children during the holidays.  Respect that your spouse is also entitled to have time with the children and ensure that any holiday bookings are within the timeframes allocated to you and does not encroach upon your spouse’s time with the children.  To avoid conflict, it is a good idea to revisit your holiday custody plan and ensure that you and your spouse have discussed the holiday plans so that you are both on the same page and have both booked your holidays that respect each other’s time with your children. If there is conflict over timeshare during the holidays, it is best to resolve it before you fly out of Hong Kong rather than having to deal with a custody/visitation dispute whilst traveling and having it ruin you and more importantly your children’s holiday plans.
  2. Provide Emergency Contact Details: Ahead of any holiday, it is imperative that you keep your spouse up-to-date on the children’s holiday plans.  This includes providing emergency contact information and also a detailed itinerary of the children’s whereabouts during their travel, namely flight and other travel details.  Your spouse is entitled to this information because as a parent he/she should always have access to the children and should be made aware of where the children will be staying and with whom.  It is important that you do not make it difficult for your spouse by refusing to provide such important information about the children and their well-being during their travels. With that being said, it is important that when you are on holidays with the children, you allow the children to maintain contact with the other parent.  Being on holidays is not a free pass for you not to stick with a “virtual” visitation schedule and you should do everything you can to facilitate communication between the children and the other parent even on holidays.
  3. Ensure You Have Important Documents On Hand Before Travel: Before you travel with the children, it is important that you have all the necessary travel documentation to make your journey seamless.  This includes up-to-date vaccination records especially with the ongoing Covid-19 virus and the related changing rules amongst various countries.  You also might want to also take the time to speak directly with your solicitor as to whether you will need a Deed of Parenting ahead of travel.  For example, if you and your children have a different last name and the parent with the same last name as the children is not traveling with you, immigration officials at various checkpoints might ask tough questions to ensure that the children are in fact your children.  A Deed of Parenting will assist in avoiding such questions at border control and can easily be drafted by your solicitor prior to you leaving Hong Kong with the children.

If you have any concerns about taking the children on holiday and have concerns about potential issues with your spouse whilst on holiday, it is best to speak with your solicitor and iron out the details and any conflict before you leave Hong Kong.  It will be more difficult to iron out details about the holidays when you’re already on holidays with the children.  It is more trouble to have to deal with conflict with your spouse and having to communicate back and forth with your solicitors in Hong Kong when you should be having fun with the children and enjoying your time away from home.

Yearly Recap of Some of The Most Interesting Divorce Stories in 2022

The year of 2022 was not short of interesting and sometimes shocking divorce stories from around the world.  To wrap up the year, we have put together a list of some of the more interesting stories that have been circulating the web over the last year:

  1. Celebrity Breakup: One of the top celebrity breakups was surprise divorce between uber famous Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and supermodel Gisele Bundchen. It was reported that Gisele gave Tom an ultimatum to choose their family or his NFL career after his short retirement. Both Tom and Gisele released joint statements after filing for divorce on October 29, 2022 and they are expected to amicably raise their children despite the divorce.
  2. Pet Custody In China: A couple in China decided to divorce and whilst they had no children, they did have a pet Corgi.  The Corgi was at the center of their divorce, with both pet parents wanting full custody of the dog. The wife argued that she deserved ownership of the dog because she purchased the dog but also raised the Corgi.  The husband acknowledged that he did not feed the dog or clean up after it as much as his wife, but that he walked the dog regularly and considered the Corgi as his child.  The Court in China accepted that the dog was a joint asset of the marriage but it could not be divided as a normal asset would.  Eventually the couple reached an agreement and the Corgi lived with the wife.  The husband had regular visitation and he agreed to pay monthly alimony for the dog’s monthly expenses.
  3. Highest Divorce Rate: Maldives, Kazakhstan and Russia have been listed as the top places in the world with the highest divorce rate.  Also on the list for 2022 was Belgium, Belarus Moldova, China, Cuba, Ukraine and Denmark.  
  4. Top Reasons for Divorce: In another report, lack of commitment, communication issues and infidelity topped the list on the main reasons for divorce.
  5. No Fault Divorce in England and Wales: On 6th April 2022, England and Wales adopted a “No-Fault Divorce Law” pursuant to the Divorce Dissolution and Separation Act, which allows couples to legally separate without either party having to admit any wrongdoing.  This is a change from the previous law in the United Kingdom where parties filed for Divorce citing fault either by way of adultery or unreasonable behaviour or desertion. Whilst couples in the United Kingdom can opt for divorce based on 2 years’ separation, this basis for divorce requires consent from the other party and if no consent is received, parties must be separated for an additional 5 years before a Petition for Divorce can be filed.

That wraps up the year of 2022!  We at Hong Kong Divorce are here to provide you with as much useful information as possible to make your divorce journey as smooth as possible.  If you are thinking about divorce or wish to file, be sure to speak with a solicitor who can assist you along the way.  We at Hong Kong Divorce wish you a very Happy Holidays and an even better New Year of 2023!

Hong Kong Divorce x Liv Magazine: A Beginner’s Guide to Divorce and Custody

Hong Kong Divorce was recently featured in Liv Magazine’s November 2022 issue.  Here’s a look at our Feature Article!

Every relationship has its problems, and while counselling can help many couples get back on track, sometimes separation is the only way forward.

If you find yourself in this difficult situation, it can be reassuring to have a trusted resource to help guide you through the divorce process in Hong Kong. If there are children involved, it’s even more important to come to an amicable separation.

How Do Hong Kong Courts Deal with Divorce?

In Hong Kong there are five grounds for divorce, and you need to select one option when filing your paperwork. They are:

  1. Adultery
  2. Unreasonable Behaviour
  3. One Year Separation with Consent of the Other Party
  4. Two Year Separation Without Consent
  5. Desertion (for at least a period of one year)

How Do Hong Kong Courts Deal with Custody Issues?

In Hong Kong, children issues are broken down into three areas:

Custody: In Hong Kong, you will either be granted “sole” custody over the children or share “joint” custody with the other parent.

Generally speaking however, whether you receive sole or joint custody, each parent will always have a right to be consulted over major issues with respect to the children such as education, religion and health.

Even if you are granted “sole” custody, the other parent can veto your decision by bringing this to the Family Court.

Care and Control: This refers to the parent who will be responsible for the day-to-day decisions related to the children and who the children will be living with on a day-to-day basis.

Access: In cases where one parent has care and control, there will be an order for reasonable access.

 

Your lawyer will go through each of these issues with you, in order to fully understand the terms you want from the divorce, and ideally work with the other party to come to a mutually agreed-upon resolution.

 

All About Hong Kong Divorce

HongKongDivorce.com is a free educational tool and resource for individuals struggling to navigate divorce in Hong Kong. You can find all the answers you need to assist you in navigating through the complexities of divorce and matrimonial proceedings in Hong Kong.

It aims to set out in simple terms what you can expect to encounter in the run-up to a divorce, and during the long and sometimes complicated process that may follow.

Caroline Choi

 

 

 

 

 

Caroline Choi, HongKongDivorce.com

The platform was created by Caroline Y Choi, a matrimonial lawyer at Oldham, Li & Nie. Caroline is an expatriate who has lived in Hong Kong since 2016. She is Of Counsel with the Law Society of Hong Kong and an attorney with the State Bar of California. She specialises in high-asset expatriate divorces and with multi-jurisdictional expertise in Hong Kong and California. As a frequent contributing writer for The Huffington Post on all issues related to family law, Caroline created the website HongKongDivorce.com with the objective of providing the public with easily accessible information related to every aspect of divorce. Its mission is to provide a concise and clear overview of the law, with the objective of providing the public with easily accessible information related to every aspect of divorce and to clarify how the divorce process works. Its mission is to provide a concise and clear overview of the law, answer common queries and provide general support to those in need.

 

Contact Details

Looking for advice? Call 2186-1810 or visit HongKongDivorce.com to learn more.

Timeline For Divorce In Hong Kong

One of the more common questions we receive is how long does it take to obtain a divorce in Hong Kong? There is not a simple straight-forward answer as there are many considerations involved in such a timeline.  The timeline of a divorce could be impacted by your personal circumstances but also circumstances out of your control. For example, earlier this year, the courts in Hong Kong were subject to a “GAP” (a general adjournment period) due to the Covid-19 outbreak in Hong Kong.  As a result, the courts in Hong Kong were closed for an extended period of time and this caused significant delay for many individuals going through a divorce in Hong Kong.

With that being said, the Family Court in Hong Kong do have general guidelines on how long it should, practically speaking, take for cases to be concluded in Hong Kong. This is outlined in Practice Direction SL10.4 with the Family Court’s Target Time Tabling schedule.  According to this Practice Direction, after a Case Management Hearing (“CMH”) hearing is listed before the allocated judge, and in cases that involve both children and finance proceedings, the target time table is as follows:

  1. Short cases within 23 months from the Case Management Hearing;
  2. Medium cases within 27 months from the Case Management Hearing;
  3. Long cases within 32 months from the Case Management Hearing.

The time tabling estimates of course may vary if you are only dealing with finance issues.  According to the Practice Direction SL10.4, cases involving finances only, the target time table is as follows:

  1. Short cases within 13 months from the Case Management Hearing;
  2. Medium cases within 17 months from the Case Management Hearing;
  3. Long cases within 22 months from the Case Management Hearing.

It is important to note that on the issue of divorce only, if you and your spouse are not involved in a dispute on the issue of divorce and it is an undefended divorce, the timeframe from the filing of the Petition to the Decree Absolute is generally anywhere between 6 to 9 months.

It is important to speak with your solicitor about any questions you may have about the timetable for your divorce as he/she will be able to give you a better idea of how the courts are handling matters at the time of filing.  The complexity of your case will also determine the timeline as to how long it will take the courts to set down key dates/hearings.  Your solicitor should prepare you in that a divorce in Hong Kong is never quick.  It will take time to divorce in Hong Kong and it will be an involved process that requires a great deal of patience.

No-Fault Divorce in the UK_Is This What’s In Store For Hong Kong?

On 6th April 2022, England and Wales adopted a “No-Fault Divorce Law” pursuant to the Divorce Dissolution and Separation Act, which allows couples to legally separate without either party having to admit any wrongdoing.   As Editor-in-Chief at Hong Kong Divorce and as a qualified attorney with the State Bar of California and a member of the United States District Court, Southern District of California and United States District Court, Central District of California since 2007, I wanted to discuss No-Fault Divorce and how the new law in the United Kingdom compares to No-Fault Divorce in California.

Under this new No-Fault Divorce law in the United Kingdom, parties filing for Divorce can file a joint application for divorce without the need to cite terms such as Adultery or “Unreasonable Behaviour” and thus pointing to the conduct of the other party.  This is a change from the previous law in the United Kingdom where parties filed for Divorce citing fault either by way of adultery or unreasonable behaviour or desertion.  Whilst couples in the United Kingdom can opt for divorce based on 2 years’ separation, this basis for divorce requires consent from the other party and if no consent is received, parties must be separated for an additional 5 years before a Petition for Divorce can be filed.

No-Fault Divorce has long been something followed in California.  In fact, California was the first state in the USA to enact a No-Fault Divorce law.  This law was signed by Governor Ronald Reagan, a divorced and remarried movie star at the time and came into effect in 1970.  Many states in the USA now follow the No-Fault Divorce law including New York, Florida, Washington and Hawaii, among others.

For those in favour of the No-Fault Divorce law, the benefit of the move towards this new law is that the litigious heat that many couples face in divorce will be taken out of the divorce process as the courts will no longer look to fault and the reasons behind the breakdown of the marriage.  Instead, the view and hope are that the parties will instead focus on a more collaborative way forward in resolving issues related to children and financial division.  In the United Kingdom, industry leaders are embracing the move towards the No-Fault divorce law as “fault” creates unnecessary conflict and in fact, many believe that “fault” has no bearing on the outcome of financial proceedings.

It is true that in California, there are at times litigious divorces even though it is a No-Fault state.  Many parties can bring in “fault” through declarations and testimonies filed with the Court in support of their motions for relief.  It is not a perfect system.  And it is likely that in the United Kingdom, while the hope may be to create a more harmonious environment for divorcing parties, there still will be loopholes where parties’ attempts to bring in information to prove fault and blame will remain to play a pivotal role in the divorce.  However, similar to what California has seen in their No-Fault divorce system, the United Kingdom judges will no longer focus on what caused the breakdown of the marriage and instead focus on simply moving the divorce forward and focusing on the wishes of the parties to end the marriage.

With the new law in effect as of 6th April 2022, the parties can now file for divorce and cite “irreconcilable differences” which is how divorcing parties file for divorce in California and other No-Fault states. In addition to the citation of “irreconcilable differences” the parties will then file for a condition order (similar to a Decree Nisi in Hong Kong, which is a first step towards a divorce or Decree Absolute) and then once that is granted, the parties can then apply for a final order (Decree Absolute).

The big question many are now asking is whether the process in the United Kingdom with No-Fault divorce will result in a quicker divorce process.  According to experts in the United Kingdom, there will be a minimum period of 20 weeks from the commencement of the proceedings to the conditional order.  In California, the courts provide parties an opportunity to ponder upon the divorce and provides opportunity for reconciliation during the “waiting period.”  In California under Section 2339(a) of the California Family Code, the waiting period is six (6) months and begins once the Summons and Petition for Divorce is filed or the date of appearance of the Respondent, whichever occurs first.  This minimum 6-month period to obtain a divorce is to allow the parties sufficient time for parties to change their mind about the divorce and to reconcile.

The England and Wales No-Fault Divorce law follows the likes of many other international countries who have also adopted this No-Fault divorce including Australia (Family Law Act 1975), Canada (The Divorce Act 1968) and Sweden.  Whether the No-Fault divorce law will incite more divorces in the United Kingdom is yet to be seen.  Proponents against No-Fault divorce argue that this will only increase the filing of divorce petitions, in addition to the fact that without allowing fault to be introduced into the discussion, judges will make important decisions without consideration of the facts, behaviour and circumstances that led to the breakdown of the marriage.

A big question among practitioners and clients in Hong Kong is whether the Hong Kong courts will follow the United Kingdom by introducing No-Fault Divorce.  This is yet to be seen but it is likely that if Hong Kong courts decide to move towards No-Fault Divorce, it will take much time and consideration before any decisions are made.  History has demonstrated that Hong Kong courts are slow to follow the United Kingdom and thus, only time will tell if Hong Kong decides to move towards No-Fault Divorce.

Postnuptial Agreements vs. Deed of Separation – Which One Do You Need?

In this article, we are going to touch upon two important types of agreements that you and your spouse can enter into:  Postnuptial Agreements and a Deed of Separation.  What is the difference between the two agreements and which one should you opt for, if at all.  Let’s take a look!

Postnuptial Agreements:  A Postnuptial Agreement is a marital contract and entered into after the marriage.  In comparison, a Prenuptial Agreement is a marital contract entered into prior to the date of marriage.  Similar to a Prenuptial Agreement, a Postnuptial Agreement can be entered into between a husband and wife (because it is after the marriage) in order to set out terms for resolution of key issues in a divorce such as finances and children.  For many couples, a Postnuptial Agreement is a key document to set out terms in anticipation of divorce, thus making the divorce process a lot smoother so that there is no ambiguity over what could be high conflict issues.  Sometimes, couples enter into Postnuptial Agreements because they are considering a divorce but then they decide to reconcile.  Then as a safeguard, they have in place a Postnuptial Agreement in place in the event the reconciliation does not work.  In Hong Kong, Postnuptial Agreements are recognized and considered when dealing with divorce settlements by the Hong Kong Courts.

Deed of Separation:  A Deed of Separation on the other hand, is a separate agreement made between a husband and wife after a decision has been made to legally separate.  Many times, couples enter into a Deed of Separation to outline the terms of their divorce on key issues such as finances and children.  The Deed of Separation is then attached to the Divorce Petition to demonstrate to the Hong Kong Court that an agreement has been reached between the parties and thus, the divorce should therefore move forward without delay.  This extra step in entering into a Deed of Separation may be worthwhile for couples because an agreement can be reached early on in the separation process.  It essentially releases the heat which may arise in a divorce process when disagreements take place between separating couples.

Is A Deed of Separation Similar to a Judicial Separation?:  A Deed of Separation is simply a contract/agreement entered into between you and your spouse outlining the terms agreed to with respect to a separation/divorce.  A Judicial Separation however, is an actual application made to the Hong Kong Court whereby you and your partner are stating that you want to be legally separated but for some reason not legally divorced.  Many times, individuals choose a Judicial Separation for personal reasons such a religion.  Whatever the reason, it is important to remember that if you apply and obtain a Judicial Separation, you are legally separated but it does not mean you are divorced.  Later, if you decide you wish to become legally divorced from your spouse, you will need to commence separate divorce proceedings.  This is something to consider from a cost basis because you will need to spend money both on a Judicial Separation proceeding AND a divorce proceeding if you later wish to become legally divorced.  Another key consideration when applying for a Judicial Separation is that if you obtain a Judicial Separation and are not legally divorced and only legally separated, you are not free to marry under the law.  If you obtain a Decree Absolute in your divorce proceeding however, you are free to remarry upon the pronouncement of a Decree Absolute.

How Do You Choose Between These Options?:  Before you move forward with a Postnuptial Agreement, Deed of Separation and/or a Judicial Separation or Divorce, it is important that you speak directly with a solicitor and explain your special circumstances.  Depending on your circumstances, one agreement may be a better option than another.  Your solicitor will then be able to guide you in the right direction as to what agreement/contract you should have in place and whether a separation or divorce is the better option for you when applying to the Court.  Your solicitor will help ensure you take the right steps for yourself and your family.

HK Divorce:  Helping Your Loved Ones Through Divorce

At Hong Kong Divorce, we have walked you through the many issues you may face going through a divorce and what that journey entails from a legal perspective.  For many of you, a divorce can catapult you into a difficult grieving process which can take as little or as long as you need and it is with the help and support of your loved ones, that you will be able to pull through and lead you to a new life that can be full of joy. In today’s article, we want to focus on your friends and family who are going through this journey with you and provide some practical and helpful tips your family and friends can do to support you through this difficult time.

Tip #1 – Provide A Listening Ear:  One of the most helpful ways to be there for your loved one is to listen to them when they need your support. Providing an open space for your friend or family member to express their hurts not only helps them process through the grieving process but also allows them to understand that they are loved regardless of the circumstances.  At times, you may become frustrated if you feel that the person is not moving on or repeating the same toxic patterns. However, it is important to remember that when your loved one is processing through his/her grief, a consequence of the grief is that your loved one may repeat toxic patterns as a coping mechanism to get through the pain.  As frustrating as it may be, the last thing you want to do is refuse to listen because if you refuse, you may end up pushing your loved one away.  The best thing you can provide is an open ear and provide that support by listening again and again.

Tip #2 – Do Not Judge and Be Supportive: It is also important that when you are listening to your loved one who is going through the stages of their divorce process, that you provide a listening ear that is free of judgment or scorn.  Your loved one is already in a fragile state of mind during a divorce and he/she is not looking to receive additional judgment or scorn from you.  Divorce can be extremely isolating for some individuals and part of the isolation is the feeling that he/she is being judged by the world.  You must remember that the divorce process is a marathon and it requires a lot of your loved one’s time and emotional energy. You therefore want to be the person who can provide that support in a safe space and you can do that by providing a listening ear and advice (when asked) that is free from judgment.   You want your loved one to be completely honest with you about what he/she is going through so that you can support them in the best way possible.  Your friend/family member cannot be completely honest unless they know you are a safe person to divulge their deepest sorrows during one of their most difficult times. It is during the divorce process that your loved one might also go through certain transitions and he/she may make choices that you might not be in agreement with.  However, rather than judge, allow your friend/family member to explore their new normal and figure out what works for them.  They may start dating or take on a new hobby/activity that you do not agree with. Rather than judge your friend, perhaps try and understand their choices and ask them what you can do to support them during this time.

Tip #3 – Assist In Other Helpful Ways:  A good way to support a loved one going through divorce is to simply ask him/her what he/she needs.  It might be a listening ear. It might mean a meal together or helping them with tasks around the house.  Sometimes, your friend/loved one might need financial assistance as the divorce process is not a cheap process to go through.  Consider your loved one’s needs and consider how you can help.  Even if it means delivering a nice meal to their home or helping take care of their children when they need time to go to Court or meet with their lawyers, this assistance will go a long way.

If you have never gone through a divorce, it may be difficult to empathize with a loved one going through a litigious divorce.  For many individuals, they describe divorce as a death in the family.  The grief associated with divorce can loom large in their lives and it will take time for your loved one to move on.  Be there to support your friend/family member in the best way you can and he/she will surely be appreciative of it in the long run.

Questions to Ask Your Solicitor

Many families are back in Hong Kong after a long, extended summer away and the focus is now on settling back into a routine with your family and children.  For some, now that the chaos and fun of summer is over, it is the opportune time to regroup and sit down with your significant other to talk about the hard topics that may have been swept under the rug for the sake of summer fun.  It is during this new season that many couples have considered speaking with a solicitor to get their queries answered about separation, divorce, custody and all the other important topics related to a split.

Before any major decisions are made about a divorce, it is important that individuals educate themselves about the separation and/or divorce process in Hong Kong and education includes spending a good 30 minutes to an hour with a solicitor specializing in divorce to answer all the questions you may have about what a divorce could mean for you and your family.

In this article, we will list out all the questions you should take with you and ask your solicitor in your initial consultation so you have a handy checklist on what information you need to make an informed decision about your divorce.

  1. List of Questions To Ask Your Divorce Solicitor In The Initial Consultation: Here is a list of questions to ask your divorce solicitor in an initial consultation. Please be minded that you may want to add to this list of questions based on your personal circumstances.
  • What is your experience in family law? Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your experience handling these types of matters?
  • What is the difference between a separation and a divorce in Hong Kong?
  • Who is likely to obtain custody/care of the children? Do the Courts in Hong Kong give preferential treatment to mothers?
  • If I receive primary care of the children, will my partner still have the ability to make joint decisions on issues like religion, schooling and healthcare?
  • I want to move away from Hong Kong with the children, what process do I need to go through in order to obtain this?
  • How will the Courts in Hong Kong determine the division of assets and debts? Is it 50/50?
  • How will the Courts in Hong Kong determine alimony and child support?
  • Instead of going through the Court process, are there other alternative methods to resolve the outstanding issues with my spouse? For example, is mediation or collaborative divorce an option in Hong Kong?
  • If I go through the divorce, can I speak directly to my spouse and negotiate with my partner on my own?
  • How much will you charge me for a divorce? What about extra fees?
  • What do you anticipate/estimate my fees will be to finalize the divorce?
  • Will you be handling my case or do you have a team/associate assisting as well? How much do you charge per hour?
  • If this becomes a litigated case, do I need to also hire a barrister?
  • Can we ask that my spouse pay for or contribute to my legal fees?
  • Based on the information provided, what would be your suggested strategy for my case?
  • How long do you think it will take to resolve my case on the divorce, children and finances?
  1. List of Questions To Ask Your Divorce Solicitor During The Proceedings:  is important that during the divorce process, that you are fully informed of your case and the progress being made.  Questions that you pose to your divorce solicitor will vary depending on your own unique circumstances.  Here is a list of questions you may want to ask throughout the proceedings so that you are on top of your case and fully informed of its progress.
  • Can we review the progress of my case to date and discuss the strategy going forward?
  • How much longer do you think it will take to conclude my case?
  • How much have I paid in costs thus far? Can you provide an estimate of how much it will cost further, to conclude my case?
  • Is there anything you can do to move this case forward faster?
  • I am not happy with the result/progress of my case, is there anything we can do?
  • Do you think it is time to send out a settlement offer?
  • I have moved on and want to remarry, can I do that even though my divorce is not yet concluded?
  • My financial situation has changed since the commencement of my case. How can alimony be adjusted due to the change in circumstances?
  • Now that my children are older, I want to spend more time with them and they want to spend more time with me. Can I adjust custody/timeshare now that they are older?

You are now armed with important and key questions to assist you in the process of your divorce with your solicitor.  Each case is different so you will have your own specific questions unique to your own circumstances. Your solicitor should always be available and willing to answer any and all questions you may have.  If there is a lack of communication between you and your solicitor, this should be considered a concern as you should always be aware of the progress of your case and the direction it is headed.  If there is a breakdown of communication with your solicitor, it may be time to have a difficult conversation with your solicitor or move on with another solicitor to support you on your journey.

What To Expect At A Divorce Trial

For some couples going through a divorce, key decisions about finances and the children may end up being decided by a judge at trial.  This happens if you and your spouse cannot agree on how to resolve issues between you both or with the help of a mediator.  For many couples entering the world of divorce, trial is the last thing on their minds and many individuals cannot believe that their divorce has to be decided by trial.  The reality though, is that if you and your spouse cannot agree on key issues, your case will proceed to trial in Hong Kong and these decisions will be made by one person: a judge. So, let’s discuss trial and what you can expect leading up to trial:

1. How Did You Get Here?
The first question many couples ask, is how in the world did they end up going to trial in a divorce?! When couples cannot agree on key issues mainly related to ancillary relief (finances) and the children, they will have no choice but to continue through the Court process in Hong Kong which ultimately will end up at trial if decisions/agreements cannot be reached by the parties in the meantime.  For many couples, trial is burdensome not only because it is extremely expensive, but also because it is emotionally taxing on the couple, but also the children and the effect on them of having parents who have to endure the lead up to and during the trial. Many solicitors will thus encourage couples to try and mediate during the divorce and come to an agreement on issues by way of a Consent Summons, so that the decision related to the breakup is made by the couple and not by a judge.  Unfortunately, this is not necessarily an easy feat for many couples as divorce can bring out a lot of resentment and anger. However, if you are able to put the anger and resentment aside and come up with a compromise between you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse, this will always be encouraged to avoid trial.

2. Preparations for Trial
Prior to trial, your solicitor and barrister team will be hard at work preparing all the necessary documents to be filed with the Court ahead of the trial. Many times, the trial judge will hold a Pre-Trial Review hearing, to get a better understanding of the issues to be decided at trial and what work needs to be done ahead of time. At a Pre-Trial review hearing, the judge will provide each side with deadlines for filings and any other deadlines the judge sees fit.  Your solicitor and barrister will need to adhere to the deadlines set out by the court and it will require a lot of discussion with the other side so that both sides are fully prepared by the trial date.  Closer to the trial, your solicitor and barrister team will also hold several meetings with you to prepare you for trial and the testimony you will be giving.  They will run through the types of questions the other side may ask you on examination and how you should conduct yourself whilst on the witness stand.

3. What to Expect at Trial
Your solicitor and barrister team will handle each day with expertise and ease so as to make you feel comfortable and in good hands.  The trial will be emotionally taxing as you and your spouse will be taking the stand and will be examined not only by your barrister but by the other party’s barrister as well.  It is important for you to remain in constant communication and in step with your solicitor and barrister team so that you understand what is happening each day and talk to them about how the trial is proceeding. It is important to note that the judge will require you to handle the proceedings with respect and dignity.  This means wearing clothes that are conservative and respectful.  It is also important that you do not burst out with your thoughts and comments when your ex-spouse is on the stand or when his/her barrister is asking questions. You should answer questions directly and succinctly and not make personal attacks on your spouse as it is not the forum to do so, rather the judge simply wants each party to present their side so he/she can make the best and informed decision for you and your family.

4. Costs For Trial
What many couples do not realize, is that trial is extremely expensive. Leading up to the trial, there are hours upon hours of preparation by your legal team. Your legal team will often include a team of solicitors which can include partners, associates and trainees all assisting on the case. Your team may also include senior and junior barristers, depending on the complexity of your case and barristers will require their fees to be paid well in advance of the trial.  Depending on your case, you and your spouse may be responsible for fees related to experts and reports by experts on issues related to finances and the children.  There are also fixed costs to consider as well, including fees for document preparation such as photocopying and filing of documents and the related court fees. Finally, if you are unable to succeed at trial and are the losing party, you may also be responsible for the fees and costs incurred by the other party.  Thus, you could potentially be responsible not only for your own fees and costs, but the fees and costs of your ex-spouse.  The costs for trial can be overwhelming and should not be taken lightly.  You should also consider that if you or your spouse lose at trial, you may have an opportunity to appeal and this too will be extremely costly as you will remain in the litigation process and continue to incur fees for an appeal.  Thus, it is something to carefully consider before deciding to move forward with trial.

5. Can You Stop Your Trial?
Like a divorce, a trial can also be stopped before it goes forward. Your solicitor should be speaking to you about options to prevent the trial train from moving forward at epic speed.  Other options that you could consider to stop a trial from going forward, is mediation, private dispute resolution with a judge or retired judge, or even sitting down informally with your ex-spouse and coming up with an agreement that works for you both preventing potential loss as a result of a trial.

Sometimes trial cannot be avoided especially if you are in a heavily litigious divorce and are dealing with a difficult ex-spouse. However, if there are certain issues you can compromise on and work on resolving with your ex-spouse, do so and put as much attention and effort into a resolution as trial can have devastating emotional effects on you and your children.  The time spent to prepare for trial is also time that cannot be returned to you so it is important to consider all of this before you forge ahead with a trial.