Love children have rights to financial support, court rules

Girl born to unmarried parents has right to maintenance - but HK$32m is 'too much'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 June, 2014, 3:44am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 June, 2014, 3:44am

Children born out of wedlock have the same rights to maintenance as legitimate children despite their parents never having tied the knot, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

The ruling means the Family Court could have told the father of a five-year-old girl to pay his former partner HK$32 million to buy their daughter a property - but for its award of HK$118,000 monthly payments, which the appeal court found were enough.

The mother, a 34-year-old British woman, had requested another HK$700,000 for decorating fees and HK$500,000 for a car, on top of the HK$32 million she said was needed for the property purchase.

"Illegitimate children enjoy the same rights to financial provision as legitimate children," Mr Justice Johnson Lam Man-hon wrote in the judgment yesterday.

The judge in the lower court had erred, in a January 2013 ruling, in saying he had no jurisdiction to order a lump sum payment if the couple never got married, according to the ruling by Lam, Madam Justice Susan Kwan Shuk-hing and Mr Justice Aarif Barma.

"The court does have jurisdiction under [the Guardianship of Minors Ordinance] to order a settlement of a sum of money to be held on trust for the purchase of a property to cater for the accommodation needs of a child," Lam wrote.

But the mother still failed to get the sums she wanted. The three appeal judges said the HK$118,000 a month in maintenance already covered the HK$80,000 the daughter needed for accommodation.

The mother was a fashion model who married a Thai film director in 2003, the judgment said. She bore him a girl in 2004 but they divorced two years later.

In October 2006, she started cohabitating with a man who ran a fashion accessories business in Hong Kong. They never married but had a daughter in 2009. The pair separated in August 2010.

In 2012, she presented her maintenance claims in the Family Court. Judge Bruno Chan ordered the father in January last year to make periodic payments until their daughter reached the age of 18 or ceased full-time tertiary education.

Chan refused her request for an extra lump sum to buy a property for the girl, saying he was empowered to pass an order only on property owned by the father but not a lump sum.