For our last installment in this three-part relocation series, we are going to explore the potential risks that you may face when you decide to litigate a relocation application in the Family Court in Hong Kong. Generally speaking, it is always a better option to come to agreements with your ex-spouse rather than litigate matters in the Family Court. However, it is sometimes an impossibility you’re your ex-spouse is not reasonable and/or not willing to resolve matters outside of Court, whether it be agreements made directly with one another or through mediation. Relocation is a heated discussion between divorcing couples if there is no agreement. Thus, let’s look at some of the potential risks you should consider before you proceed and make your case before a judge. Bear in mind that these are only “potential” risks and each outcome will depend on the circumstances of your case and the judge deciding the outcome.
1. Less Time With Your Children: In our previous article, we explained that if you file an application in bad faith (eg. To alienate the other parent from the children) and this is revealed to the judge, you may expose yourself to a change in your custody and visitation orders. Thus, it is extremely important that the focus of your relocation application is the welfare of your child. A relocation application should never be filed to cause a rift or disrupt the bond between your ex-spouse and your child.
2. Money and Time Spent: A relocation application is not a quick and easy process. You may find yourself waiting for months before you are heard before the Family Court and once the process begins to move through the Court process, it could take significant time before an order is made by the judge. Moreover, solicitor and barrister fees and costs will also pile up rather quickly and you should anticipate having to pay significant fees to litigate your matter.
3. Psychological Damage: There is no definitive evidence to suggest that a relocation will have any psychological impact on your children, but there is some research out there that suggests it could have a long-term impact on a child’s psychology. This is definitely something to consider and watch out for. Look for signs of stress and anxiety in your child. Think about what kind of effect this might have long-term knowing your child’s unique personality and bond with the other parent. If anything, a relocation could potentially cause more distress than the usual divorce due to your child being uprooted.
4. Hague Convention Risks: In the event that you make a unilateral decision and you move your child to another country without consent or a court order, you will be subject to The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. It is considered child abduction if you wrongfully remove a child from their home state. Fleeing Hong Kong without written consent by the other parent or court order is risky business and you should seriously reconsider your decision and you should consult with a solicitor who can inform you of all the risk.
Being prepared will help you overcome any obstacles you may face in a relocation application before the Hong Kong court and should be taken seriously to avoid any significant adverse repercussions upon yourself or the children.