Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Email this article
SLW's speaking notes on launch of public consultation on proposed legislation to reform laws on child custody and access

     Following are the speaking notes of the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, on the launch of a public consultation on proposed legislation to implement the recommendations made by the Law Reform Commission in its Report on Child Custody and Access at a stand-up media briefing today (November 25):

     I would like to announce the launch of a four-month public consultation on the proposed legislation to implement the recommendations made by the Law Reform Commission (LRC) in its Report on Child Custody and Access.

     The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region 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.

     Unlike the existing law on child custody and access which defines the 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. The best interests of children should be the guiding principle for all court proceedings concerning children.

     We have 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 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;

(b) if a major decision affecting a child is to be made, a parent has to seek consent of or notify the other parent; and

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

     We see merit in collecting the views of the community to refine the draft bill, as appropriate, before introducing it into the Legislative Council.

     We note that some members of the public have expressed concern over the support services for implementing the parental responsibility model. 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 fact, 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 in the first half of 2016-17 to facilitate the arrangement of children's contact with separated/divorced parents and to strengthen support for separated/divorced families so that children need not be torn between parents, irrespective of whether there are court orders on the divorce cases. The Government would review the support measures and the resources needed for the implementation of the parental responsibility model from time to time.

     Indeed, the SWD has been stepping up its publicity and public education on the parental responsibility model. These include launching a territory-wide campaign entitled "Marriage may end but parenthood goes on", distributing an information package to relevant stakeholders, and producing a set of handbooks to provide more detailed information and guidance for separated/divorced parents and their children on co-parenting issues. In addition, the SWD has provided a dedicated website and is running on a trial basis a short psycho-educational programme for separated/divorced parents.

     The four-month public consultation will last till March 25, 2016. The consultation paper can be downloaded from the Labour and Welfare Bureau (LWB) 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, fax or email on or before March 25, 2016.

Ends/Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Issued at HKT 19:05


Print this page