Child custody legal shake-up in the offing

Updated: 2015-11-14 08:39

By China Daily in Hong Kong(HK Edition)

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A government report on how to revamp laws on child custody in the event of divorce will be released in the next two weeks.

Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said the white paper will introduce the concepts of joint parental responsibility, ahead of public consultations to be followed by a long-planned overhaul of the city's divorce and marriage laws.

The proposed bill, which borrows heavily from a 2005 Law Reform Commission report, will likely redefine custodial rights in divorce or separation, allowing both parents to maintain an active involvement in the lives of their children.

Current child custody laws favor single-parent custody and may grant allowances for limited visitation rights for the former spouse.

Cheung called the current regime outdated, faulting its one-sided approach for compromising a child's entitlements.

Meanwhile, chairman of the Law Society's Family Law Committee Dennis Ho Chi-kuen called on the government to do away with granting custody when deciding divorce cases, as a children's bill is expected to be introduced before the end of the year. Ho said divorced parents should both retain guardian responsibility for their children as a trade-off against conflicts arising in sole custody situations.

Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal Geoffrey Ma Tao-li said the proposed reforms would lend new weight to the consideration of children in custody cases, where the interests of offspring were not well-represented.

The Law Reform Commission report proposed 72 changes to current family law to bring it up to date with developments in Common Law case law from England, Scotland and Australia. The changes will all but eliminate terms such as "custody" and "access" in court proceedings.

(HK Edition 11/14/2015 page6)