09 February 2017

Comparing family law around the world - an international guide


Leading family lawyer Sharon Ser, alongside professional support lawyer Philippa Hewitt, have recently contributed a chapter on Hong Kong family law to a new guide comparing family law around the world.

As family law becomes increasingly international, it is not uncommon to see cases involving two or more jurisdictions. Whether that be by virtue of marital assets or the movement of children. With over 19 jurisdictions, this new book provides an overview of family law including the procedure for divorce and treatment of cohabitants. The comparison covers England and Wales and Hong Kong – two key locations for the Withers family team.

Not surprisingly, Hong Kong has the most common ground with England and Wales and Singapore, as they share a common history, particularly England where the wording of some statutes are identical. There are also similar provisions in Singapore’s Women’s Charter and Malaysia’s Law of Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 to our matrimonial legislation. In Malaysia this Act only applies to non- Muslims (Muslims, the majority of the population, being subject to Sharia law. There are also separate courts in Singapore). In the Asian countries featured here, marital agreements are generally not enforceable unless approved by the court, although in Hong Kong the English case of Radmacher is now good law and therefore greater weight will be given to such an agreement. In none of these Asian jurisdictions are same sex marriages recognised and none have provision for civil partnerships. Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan are also now members of the Hague Convention.

Hong Kong appears to be unique in its provision that parties can cite a ‘substantial connection’ in order to issue proceedings here. The courts have stressed that it is not their intention to create a convenient ‘offshore divorce jurisdiction’ but recognition was given to the fact that Hong Kong is home to many families who may only be settled here for a relatively short period of time.

With all of our lawyers acting for international clients, and in multiple jurisdictions – this invaluable publication is available in book form or online.

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Category: Blog