Legal rights in Divorce in Hong Kong: 5 Step Process and Monetary Costs
It seems there will be a surge in couples finding out about their rights in divorce – at least if the trend holds true.
According to the statistics published in the South China Morning Post, the divorce rate in Hong Kong increased fourfold in a period of 22 years. From 6,295 back in 1991, it grew to 22,271 in 2013. The experts believe that this increase is caused by the lifestyle and values that couples have in this region.
Apparently, lifestyles are quite tense and the small houses that people live in are not helping. Since living conditions are tight, couples do not have enough freedom and experts believe it is causing them to argue more.
Individuals continue to pursue their own interests – especially women. This is wreaking havoc in the marital conditions in Hong Kong. Sometimes, the pursuit of material success is leading couples away from each other.
Of course, some people still believe in the value of marriage but the fact and statistics reveal that divorce will continue to be a part of society. This is why you need to be aware of your legal rights in divorce.
This is not just about being pessimistic. It is more of knowing the signs about your relationship and being financially prepared to live your life as an individual.
After all, divorce can leave your emotions shattered. At the very least, you want to make sure that your finances will not end up in the same situation.
What is the legal process to get a divorce?
Getting a divorce in Hong Kong usually takes four to six months – as long as both parties can easily agree to the terms and will not make the process complicated. That is 3 to 4 months of acquiring a Decree Nisi, which is a tentative divorce order, and another 1 to 2 months of waiting for the final order from the court.
According to the data provided by Clic.org, divorce in Hong Kong will go through a 5 step process.
Step 1: Presenting the petition for divorce.
This is when you fill out forms that will include your grounds for divorce (Form 2), the arrangement for the children (Form 2B), the financial statements for the dispute (Form 2E), the notice of proceedings (Form 3), and the acknowledgement of the service (Form 4).
In case the filing will be done jointly, the documents would include only a joint application (Form 2C) and arrangement for the children (Form 2D). Not all of these forms will be applicable for all cases. This is why it is very important to consult a lawyer about the documents you will file.
The forms are available and should be submitted to the Family Court Registry. You need to submit your marriage certificate and pay a filing fee of HK$631. Once a case number is given, it will be marked on the documents.
Step 2: Serving or delivering on the petition.
The legal proceedings will start now and if you are the recipient, you need to know your legal rights in divorce. The serving of the petition should be done by someone else – and not anyone of the couple involved. A joint application will not require this step.
Step 3: Scheduling a date for the court hearing.
This is when you will apply to the Registrar so you can set a date for the trial or court hearing. You have to pay HK$630 for a special procedure list or HK$1,045 for a defended list. The Registrar will only set down a trial if it is proven that the petition is served and received by the respondent. Once a schedule is set, both parties will be notified.
Step 4: Decree Nisi.
This is when you try to get a tentative divorce order from the court. The special procedure list is for cases wherein the respondent does not file an answer or does not object to anything. This is also applicable to joint applications.
The defended list is usually the one that takes a long time because a respondent files an answer. The court can either dissolve the marriage or dismiss it because of lack of evidence.
Step 5: Final divorce order.
Around 6 weeks after the decree nisi, this can be applied to make the court decision absolute. You need to submit a Notice of Application for Decree Nisi to be made Absolute. If you are filing jointly, you need to submit Form 5A – if not, you need to submit Form 5.
Financial implications of getting a divorce
Of all the legal rights in divorce that you need to be aware of, you have to know the financial implications of going through with it. While the cost will vary and depend on your specific situation, the average amount is HK$15,000 to HK$20,000.
But beyond this cost, you have to consider the fact that divorce will really put a dent in your financial life – as an individual and as a couple. The divorce courts in Hong Kong can order for all your assets to be disbursed – even those that are overseas. Before the divorce proceedings are finalized, the court will touch on these things:
- The income and earning capabilities as well as the financial resources of the divorcing couple.
- The financial needs, obligations and the various responsibilities of the couple to each other and their children.
- The lifestyle that the couple lived while they were together.
- The age of the couple and length of their marriage.
- The contributions of each when it comes to building the wealth and welfare of the family.
- The disabilities (physical and mental) of those involved – if applicable.
- The benefits that will be lost when the divorce is finalized.
All of these will be discussed to determine how the court will decide when it comes to any payments that will be made towards each other (couple). If there are joint properties, these will be divided between the couple.
If there are debts, the responsibility will also be shared. This is why you need to be aware of your rights in divorce – so you will get your fair share. Even if only one of you is earning money, both will benefit from the assets that will be divided.
The thing about Hong Kong is that it operates on fairness. You can expect that it will be fair to both parties. But that does not mean you should leave everything to fate. You need to fight for your legal rights in divorce so you will not be left wanting.
To survive the financial beating you will take during the divorce proceedings, you need to do the following.
- Create a budget that will help you keep up with financial payments.
- Cancel all financial and credit accounts that you jointly own.
- Make copies of all your financial statements and file them – just in case.
- Get your tax returns and file the documents.
- Pay all your credit and tax obligations.
- Take account of all your valuables.
- Refuse to move out of your house until a court order or legal advice is made.
- Do not touch your assets or make changes.
- Always consult a lawyer before you sign or agree to anything.