Divorce law update open for discussion

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 December, 2011, 12:00am


A long-awaited proposal to improve children's rights in divorce cases will be open for public consultation, six years after it was raised by the Law Reform Commission.

The Labour and Welfare Bureau will soon launch a public consultation on a 'joint parental responsibility' model for estranged couples and their children to replace the existing 'custody' approach, a change raised in a 2005 commission report on child custody and access.

Secretary for Justice Wong Yan-lung, who also chairs the commission, announced the consultation at a meeting of the Legislative Council's panel on administration of justice and legal services yesterday. It comes after officials put an anti-stalking law up for public consultation on Monday, 11 years after the commission proposed changes.

The commission suggested six years ago that sole custody for children of divorced parents should be abolished in favour of allowing both parents to be involved. Under the joint parental responsibility arrangement, one parent is given a residence order and the other is given a contact order. However, no progress has been made since.

Defending the delays, Wong said some reform proposals were controversial and not all recommendations could be implemented promptly.

Under new guidelines issued in October, government bureaus have to give the commission a preliminary response to recommendations within six months and another more in-depth response within 12 months. But Wong said the new measure would not apply retrospectively.

At the panel meeting yesterday, Democratic Party lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan pointed out: 'A lot of recommendations were made years ago and might not take account of changes, becoming less effective.'

Paul Tse Wai-chun, who is also a lawyer, said the commission should only deal with reforms with a high chance of being implemented.

Of 59 reports made since 1996, 29 have had recommendations fully or substantially implemented.