Hong Kong is a cosmopolitan city, attracting many individuals from various countries to live, work and raise children. In the heat of a divorce, many expatriates may decide they no longer want to remain in Hong Kong and many times, individuals decide to relocate back to their home country. Unfortunately, this may be a complicated situation if you and your spouse are from different countries and the neutral destination to raise your children may continue to be Hong Kong. With that being said, if you are set on relocating with the children in the midst of a divorce, there are important things to consider before you make a final decision to move away with your children.
First of all, if your spouse does not agree to you and your children’s relocation, your plan for a fresh start may not be as easy as you think. Relocation applications can be extremely expensive and can result in a long drawn-out litigated process through the Family Court system. While the Family Court will consider your request to move the children out of Hong Kong, it is usually not a quick decision but rather a well thought-out order by the Family Court. Thus, it could be months or even years before you are given the green light to move with your children to another country.
Before you make a decision to remove your children from Hong Kong, here are some helpful tips to consider before you make this life-altering decision:
1. Think About the Best Interests of Your Children
Is this move beneficial for your children? When you relocate your children, you are moving them away from the other parent. That may be appealing to you in a messy divorce, but to your children, this may be a devastating reality. Think about what is in the best interests of your children first and foremost. If your ex-spouse has an equal timeshare with the children, it may not be that easy to move the children away from their current home country. You will also want to consider the fact that you may be moving your children away from the support system (both family and friends) that they are used to. When this becomes a litigated matter, your desire to move away may not happen immediately, so you also need to consider what the best timing is for your children’s transition in this relocation. If your children are old enough to understand your decision to move, you may want to have open dialogue with them as to their wishes on whether they want to move at all.
2. Have a Plan
Have you thought out the relocation plan all the way through? What school will your children attend and is this school up to par with the current school that your children are attending? Who is going to help care for the children when you are unable to be there for them? Do you have family and/or friends who are in the vicinity to help with childcare and be a support system to you and your children? Do you have a job lined up and is this really a better opportunity than the current employment situation that you are facing in Hong Kong? These are just a few questions to ask yourself prior to the relocation of your family. These are also some questions the Court will want you to explain prior to making its decision so it is important to have a plan and not make a decision based on a whim.
3. Communicate With the Other Parent
Communicate with the other parent about your desire to move. You may be surprised that he or she may be willing to work with you in allowing the relocation. This will also help you avoid costs associated with a litigated motion to move. Communicating with the other parent will also help you and your ex-spouse figure out an appropriate parenting plan and visitation schedule, which may include online “virtual visitation” through Skype, Facetime or ZOOM. It is also important to discuss travel expenses for visitation now that the two of you are no longer living in the same city/country. Open communication may reduce conflict between you and your ex-spouse and reassures the other parent that you are not trying to cut him or her out of the children’s lives. It shows the other parent that you want them to be involved despite the distance.
These are some important questions to ponder upon before you make an ultimate decision to move forward with a relocation application. It is important to remember that Hong Kong is a member of The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and any individual who unilaterally and wrongfully removes a child from the jurisdiction will be subject to the Convention. Thus, it is important that you speak to a solicitor in this process so that he/she will be able to help you navigate the legal system in this life-changing decision. Ultimately, this should not be an impulsive decision but one that is well thought out and planned appropriately.