In this article we will highlight one of the judicial forms required when you are going through a Divorce through the Hong Kong Family Court system. The Form H, is a form which has to be completed by each spouse before every hearing in the Family Court and which sets out the legal costs incurred up to that hearing and the estimated legal costs thereafter up to and including trial. The Form H is signed by you and your solicitor and by signing this form, you are acknowledging that the costs have been brought to your attention. It is therefore important that before you sign the Form H, you review the Form H carefully and ask any questions you may have about it with your solicitor.
Let’s look at the Form H in more detail as follows:
- Part 1: Estimated Costs Incurred: In Part 1 of the Form H, your solicitor will need to list out costs such as (1) Fixed Costs (2) Solicitor’s Costs (including costs incurred by your current and any previous solicitors); (3) Disbursements (including disbursements incurred by your current and any previous solicitors); and (4) All Counsel’s Fees. These costs are generally apportioned between three aspects of your divorce, namely the main divorce suit, children and ancillary relief (financial matters). It is important in this section for your solicitor to list out the costs in detail and accurately.
- Part 2: Estimated Costs after the current hearing up to and including the FDR: In Part 2 of the Form H, your solicitor will need to list out the costs as outlined above in 4 different parts, but this time your solicitor will list out the “estimated” costs and what you and your solicitor believe will be the further costs after the current hearing and up to the FDR (Financial Dispute Resolution) hearing to settle the issues related to ancillary relief.
- Part 3: Estimated Costs up to and including the Trial: In Part 3 of the Form H, similar to Part 2, your solicitor will need to list out the anticipated estimated costs, including your solicitor’s costs, disbursements and counsel’s fees up to and including the Trial. Therefore, this is the “estimated” costs that you and your solicitor believe will be the remaining costs to bring your case to a conclusion.
The Form H is an important document because the Judge will look at this document when making any financial orders with respect to solicitor/counsel costs. Therefore, it is important that this is filled out accurately. Timewise, the Form H is usually exchanged a day before the hearing and presented to the Court on the day before the hearing.
Whilst a Form H is a required form when litigating divorce, it is important to note another important aspect of a Form H. Sometimes litigants will not be aware of the accumulated costs that have been incurred to date and the Form H can simply summarize for a litigant, the amount of costs incurred so far and what will be incurred going forward. By acknowledging and reviewing both forms submitted to the Court by both husband and wife, both the divorcing husband and wife will know how much the divorce will ultimately cost the two of them. This can sometimes be an eye-opening experience and perhaps even make one party reconsider whether litigation is worthwhile given the amount of money that is being spent.