AN increase in the number of couples seeking divorce has fuelled calls for a family court in Hongkong. Family Law Association chairman Sharon Ser said divorce was a growth industry in Hongkong with more and more couples realising that their marriages had irretrievably broken down. The number of divorce applications increased by 29 per cent from 6,275 in 1989 to 8,067 in 1992. There have been 4,696 applications so far this year. Ms Ser said the present system was not designed to deal with divorce cases, which involved not only legal matters but also emotions. Under the existing system, three District Court judges are assigned to deal with divorce cases. ''The courtroom is on the second floor. There is nowhere you can have a quiet word with your counsel. The room is dark and chairs and tables are close together, making you feel that you are being accused of a criminal act,'' Ms Ser said. ''The physical set up is not civilised and is non-caring.'' As most contested cases take two years or more to come to conclusion, Ms Ser said the existing system could not keep up with the increasing pressure. Instead, a family court should be set up, she said. ''The infrastructure should exist whereby there are sufficient judges interested in family law, and regularly sitting in the family court to enable solicitors to advise their clients when a case is likely to come on and be determined,'' Ms Ser said. ''Only experienced judges can prevent cases from getting out of control, since they know what the right procedures are and they can explain to inexperienced lawyers that they should not be wasting time to pursue unnecessary fights.'' The Governor's wife, Lavender Patten, who was a practising family law barrister in England, is president of the Family Law Association. She is talking to members of the Judiciary about the advantages of setting up a family court. The Family Law Association plans to submit a formal proposal for setting up a family court to the Chief Justice in the autumn. Ms Ser said a unit of social workers should be attached to the family court to conduct preliminary mediation with the couples. ''Once a petition has been issued, couples, especially those with children, should be encouraged to meet with a social worker to advise them on the impact of divorce and to see how their dispute could be settled outside court,'' Ms Ser said. With preliminary mediation, the time of court proceedings could be reduced, since everyone knew the points of dispute. In addition, with mediation, fewer cases would go through court proceedings.