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Public consultation launched on proposed legislation to reform laws on child custody and access (with photos)

     The Government today (November 25) launched a four-month public consultation to gauge the views of the public on proposed legislation to implement the recommendations made by the Law Reform Commission (LRC) in its Report on Child Custody and Access (the Report).

     "The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) Government is committed to protecting children's welfare and rights. There has been increasing community concern about protecting the interests and rights of children affected by divorce. To safeguard the best interests of children, we propose to adopt the LRC's recommendations to put in place a 'parental responsibility model' through legislation," the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, said.

     "Unlike the existing law on child custody and access which defines parent-child relationship in terms of the rights and authority that parents have over their children, the parental responsibility model emphasises the continuing responsibilities of both parents toward their children (rather than their individual parental rights), and both parents would retain their responsibilities to participate in major decisions about their children after divorce.  

     "This marks an important step forward. The best interests of children should be the guiding principle for all court proceedings concerning children," Mr Cheung said.

     The Labour and Welfare Bureau (LWB) conducted a public consultation on the Report from December 2011 to April 2012. It was found that a clear majority of the respondents supported or did not dispute the concept of the "parental responsibility model". Having also examined the latest developments in other common law jurisdictions, the Government considers that the concept of parental responsibility should be pursued in Hong Kong and the recommendations put forward in the Report should be implemented through legislative or administrative means as appropriate.

     "However, we also noted that some members of the public have expressed concern about the actual legal provisions and the support services for implementing the 'parental responsibility model', in particular whether there will be additional support services for divorced families to tie in with the proposed legislative reform, and whether our community is ready for such a paradigm shift in parenting concept," Mr Cheung said.

     "The Government will implement appropriate support measures in partnership with non-governmental organisations. The Social Welfare Department (SWD) will continue to undertake promotion and public education work relating to the 'parental responsibility model'.

     "In response to the suggestions made by the legal profession and some welfare non-governmental organisations, the SWD will launch a pilot project on children contact services," Mr Cheung said. He added that the Government would review the support measures and the resources needed for the implementation of the "parental responsibility model" from time to time.

     In consultation with the Department of Justice, the Home Affairs Bureau, the Social Welfare Department, the Judiciary and other relevant bureaux and departments, the LWB has prepared a draft Children Proceedings (Parental Responsibility) Bill to implement the Report's recommendations.  

     The draft bill, if implemented, will have implications for divorced families and their children, including:

(a) the concept of "guardianship" will be replaced by the concept of "parental responsibility" to redefine the parent-child relationship in law;

(b) there will be a statutory list of factors to assist the court in determining what is in the best interests of the child in children proceedings;

(c) the existing custody and access orders will be replaced by a child arrangements order so as to move away from terminology that would imply a winner or a loser in disputes concerning a child;

(d) if a major decision affecting a child is to be made, a parent has to seek consent of or to notify the other parent, and there will be statutory lists of such major decisions;

(e) the limitation on the rights of third parties (such as grandparents) to apply for court orders in relation to the child will be removed; and

(f) a mechanism for ascertaining and expressing the child's views to the court will be provided.

     Mr Cheung said, "In view of these implications, we see merit in collecting the views of the community to refine the draft bill, as appropriate, before introducing it into the Legislative Council."

     The four-month public consultation will last till March 25, 2016. The consultation paper can be downloaded from the LWB's webpage ( or obtained from the Public Enquiry Service Centres of District Offices.

     The Government will conduct a series of public engagement activities during the consultation period.  Details of these activities will be announced on the above-mentioned webpage.

     Members of the public and stakeholders are welcome to send their views to the LWB by post (Team 1, Labour and Welfare Bureau, 11/F, West Wing, Central Government Offices, 2 Tim Mei Avenue, Tamar, Hong Kong), fax (2524 7635) or email ( on or before March 25, 2016.  

Ends/Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Issued at HKT 17:06


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