19 February 2020 - Article
I fell in love with Hong Kong in September 2009 when I was invited by Winnie Chow, Linda Heathfield and Katherine Lynch to speak at the Children's Issues Forum. I had passed through Hong Kong on numerous occasions en route to Australia to see my family. However, I had never stopped and explored before — what a mistake! I thoroughly enjoyed not only the conference but also the generous hosting by the Hong Kong Law Society and Bar. There were excellent speakers both from Hong Kong and also international speakers. They all spoke passionately about their respective topics and provided great insights into their work with children/children's law in their respective jurisdictions. My specialist topic was in relation to the potential role of collaborative practise and I explained the change that this approach had brought to family practitioners in England and Wales and hoped that the message could spread to Hong Kong. The cornerstone of collaborative practice is the signing of the disqualification clause which precludes the clients and lawyers from litigating and makes it clear that if litigation is threatened or issued, the lawyers are sacked and replaced by new ones. I am sure this sounds counter-intuitive but we have proof that it works! Further, by working as a team in a series of four way meetings, the clients are able to agree how to co-parent their children. This in turn helps the children to come to terms with their parents' separation and lessens the potential difficult impact and consequences of divorce. When I left Hong Kong in 2009 I had great hopes for the prospect of collaborative in Hong Kong but much more has been achieved than I could ever have envisaged. The practice is firmly on the map in Hong Kong and I am delighted to be attending the third Children's Issues Forum and having the opportunity to discuss current practice with the participants. My final word goes to arbitration in children matters. This is a new concept from an English law perspective and is built on the successful launch of arbitration and financial remedies proceedings. I would be more than happy to say a few words to explain to anyone who is interested!