The Law Reform Commission of Hong Kong published a Report on Child Custody and Access (“LRC Report”) in March 2005 and put forward a total of 72 recommendations. The theme underlining the LRC Report is the introduction of a parental responsibility model into Hong Kong family law. In November 2015, the Labour and Welfare Bureau (“LWB”) released a consultation paper on “The Proposed Legislation to Implement the Recommendations of the Law Reform Commission Report on Child Custody and Access” and sought public views on two main issues, namely a draft Children Proceedings (Parental Responsibility) Bill (the “Draft Bill”) and support measures for implementing the above recommendations of the LRC Report.
The main purpose of the Draft Bill is to implement the recommendations made in the LRC Report, including, inter alia:
- replacing the concept of “guardianship” with the concept of “parental responsibility”;
- introducing various statutory lists covering parental responsibility and major decisions concerning child’s upbringing that would require consent or notification of the other parent;
- introducing a range of new court orders to replace the existing custody and access orders; and
- consolidating the law relating to responsibilities of parents for children and new legislative provisions into one ordinance.
The Draft Bill also seeks to repeal and re-enact the Guardianship of Minors Ordinance (Cap. 13).
Support Measures for Implementing the Law Reform
The LWB in the consultation paper proposes three support measures to implement the law reform:
- publicity measures and public education to change the mindset of the parents;
- handbooks, website, television and radio announcements to promote the concept of parental responsibility; and
- a two-year pilot scheme for children contact service to facilitate children contact with separated or divorced parents.
The Law Society supports the law reform on child custody and access and has been pressing for this for the past decade. The Law Society has prepared a written submission providing comments on the Draft Bill. Among others, a number of support services are suggested: for example, introducing parenting coordination for high conflict parents, providing specialised training to social workers, setting up a Maintenance Board in Hong Kong, etc. A committee composed of representatives from the legal profession, NGOs and government officials should also be set up to facilitate the smooth implementation of the law reform.
The full submission is available at http://www.hklawsoc.org.hk/pub_e/news/submissions.asp.