When going through a breakdown of relationship, a married couple may choose to apply for a divorce or judicial separation. Either party may seek financial relief from the other party. Parents may also pursue claims for children-related matters such as custody, care and control, and access.

If a married couple have decided to separate without filing a divorce petition, they may make a separation agreement to specify financial arrangements and children matters. This arrangement also applies for unmarried couples.

For cross-border marriages and partnerships, there may be disputes on where to commence proceedings. Before taking any legal actions, the parties can seek advice on whether the Hong Kong Court has jurisdiction on the proceedings.

While domestic violence is most often associated with physical abuse, it can also include sexual abuse, psychological intimidation, and verbal threats. When victims of domestic violence feel that their safety is threatened, they may apply for court orders—legally referred to as injunction reliefs—against current and former spouses or partners.

When a divorced or separated couple go through a breakdown of relationship, they may need legal advice on matters related to children’s custody, care and control, and access arrangements. These arrangements are dealt with as part of their divorce or separation proceedings. Applications related to children’s matters can also be taken out under the Guardianship of Minor Ordinance (Cap. 13).

Custody is the right to make important life decisions of the children such as schooling, religion, and medical treatments. Care and control refer to day-to-day arrangement of the children, including meals, bedtimes, and transport matters. Access outlines the arrangements for the non-resident parent to meet with the children.

Adoption can be applied solely by a person or jointly by 2 spouses in Hong Kong. The adoptive parent(s) will need to be at least 25 years old with a fit mental and physical health condition, clean criminal record, and stable employment. The Social Welfare Department or an accredited NGO will conduct an assessment on the adoptive parents for the application. The consent of the biological parents is required, if possible. There are also cases of private adoptions, in which the adoptive parent(s) and child are relatives or the adoptive parent is married to the child’s biological parent.

In cases of cross-border divorce and separation, a child may be removed or retained by one parent out of the jurisdiction of the child’s permanent residence without the consent of the other parent. This is when an application may be made for the return of the child from countries that are part of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

For children from a divorced or separated family to be legally relocated to other countries permanently, it will require the consent of both parents and a court order to have the children removed from the jurisdiction of Hong Kong. If the parents cannot reach an agreement, then the parent who intends to relocate with the children may submit a relocation application to the Hong Kong Court. The non-relocating parent who disagrees to the proposal may oppose the application.

If a divorced or separated couple cannot resolve disputes over their child’s schooling decisions on their own, they may resort to obtaining a court ruling on the matter.

Nuptial agreements can be made before or after marriage to determine the rights and obligations of a couple if there were to be a breakdown of relationship. It usually covers the arrangements of assets, properties, and financial reliefs of a spouse, but can also be formatted in more complex and detailed ways to define further topics.

When a divorce or separation is in process, a financially weaker spouse may apply for financial relief in the form of maintenance pending suit. If granted, the Court can order one spouse to provide financial support to the other spouse and their child’s living expenses for a fixed period of time. This financial relief can include legal costs provisions.

The Hong Kong Court may still have jurisdiction to handle financial disputes between a divorced couple who concluded the legal proceedings outside of Hong Kong. A party may submit an application under Part IIA of the Matrimonial Proceedings and Property Ordinance (Cap. 192).

During a divorce or separation proceedings, one party may attempt to dispose assets to defeat the other party’s financial claims. In such situation, an application can be made to the Court to overturn the disposal or transfer by setting aside the transaction.

An unmarried couple still has the responsibilities to provide financial support to their child. When there are any disputes, financial relief can be sought through the Court according to the Guardianship of Minors Ordinance (Cap. 13).

A third party may plead that the existing legal owner of a property is not its actual beneficial owner. The Court may need to determine the final beneficial owner(s) of the property before a division of assets can take place.

Enforcement of financial orders occurs when one party requires further legal measures to fulfil the financial responsibilities set by an existing court order. There are various ways of enforcement, including:

— Judgment Summons: the non-complying party will have to explain the breach and the Court may require him / her to reveal his or her financial capabilities of settling the payments

— Committal Proceedings: if the Court finds the non-complying party having the means to pay the sum refused or neglected to do so, he/she may be punished for contempt of court by way of imprisonment

— Garnishee Order: the Court may direct the non-complying party’s garnishee (including his / her bank) to make payments to the applicant

— Charging Order: to register a charge on the non-complying party’s real estate property

Changes in financial circumstance may bring about the needs to review existing court rulings. In these situations, one can seek legal advice on a variation of financial orders to accommodate new conditions.

Families or individuals may encounter a number of real estate-related matters that require legal advice.  We can handle and advise on sale and purchase of a landed property, transfer of ownership, mortgage, charge of a landed property, and tenancy matters.

Certain life-changing situations may cause us to lose mental capacity over time or immediately. An enduring power of attorney allows a person, legally known as a donor, to appoint another individual or trust corporation to become his or her attorney. The appointed attorney will then be able to act on the donor’s behalf in relation to his or her property and financial affairs, and continue to do so even if the donor subsequently becomes mentally incapable.

When an individual passes away, all of his or her financial assets, property, and personal belongings become part of the estate. A will is a legal document that specifies the distribution of an estate and appoints an executor to administer the estate. It may also appoint a guardian for any surviving minor children. While a will can be drafted without involving legal professionals, certain conditions and lack of legal formality may cause it to become invalid. Without a valid will, the estate may not go to the intended beneficiaries or be distributed in a desirable manner, which may add to the emotional and financial strains of surviving family members as they go through further legal procedures to settle the estate’s distribution.

When an individual passes away, an executor or administrator must apply to court for a grant of representation before handling an estate. When a named executor has been appointed under a will, he or she may apply to court for a probate that authorises such executor to handle the estate according to the directions of the will. If a will does not specify an executor or the named executor cannot fulfil the responsibilities, a letter of administration with will annexed should be obtained from court, so that an administrator can be appointed and handle the estate. In the absence of a will, a letter of administration should be obtained from court to enable an administrator to deal with the estate.

When an individual passes away, all of his or her financial assets, property, and personal belongings become part of the estate. Estate executors or administrators may require legal advice in the administration of the estate, such as the collection and distribution of the estate.

The beneficiaries of a deceased’s estate may wish to rearrange the distributions among themselves. Alternatively, there may be disagreements over the will, but the disputing parties managed to reach a consensus without going to court. A deed of family arrangement is the legal document that records: changes to the terms of a will; terms of settlement of a dispute over the will; or changes to the beneficiaries’ entitlement under the law of intestacy in the absence of a will.

Certain documents must be attested by China-Appointed Attesting Officers in Hong Kong before they can be valid for legal use in mainland China. The officers can attest, certify, or witness relevant legal documents such as declarations, appointments, and proofs that are useful in personal, family, and business contexts.

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