Date
19 October 2017
The draft legislation avoids having a winner or loser in child custody cases. But rights groups say some of its provisions are old hat.  Photo: HKEJ
The draft legislation avoids having a winner or loser in child custody cases. But rights groups say some of its provisions are old hat. Photo: HKEJ

Parental rights group blasts draft child custody legislation

A parental rights group is criticising proposed changes to the child custody ordinance, calling them “old wine in a new bottle”.

Jessie Yu, chairman of the Hong Kong Single Parents Association, said the proposal lacks details and many of its provisions are already in place.

These include parental visit centers and home services, she said.

Yu said a shortage of social workers to handle disputes between divorced parents is a bigger issue.

Also, she said more effort should be made to educate divorced couples about parental responsibility, Ming Pao Daily reports.

The proposed amendments were recommended by the Law Reform Commission on child custody and parental access.

A four-month public consultation is under way.

Under the existing ordinance, only the party that is awarded custody can live with the children and make all decisions for them.

The proposal calls for a parental responsibility model which emphasizes continuing responsibility for both parents toward their children.

Both will be responsible for decisions about their children after divorce.

The courts will no longer award guardianship of a child.

Instead, arrangement orders will be issued on which parent will live with the child and allow the other to visit.

If a major decision on the child is made, such as those relating to religion, school or a major medical procedure, the concerned parent must notify the other.

Secretary for Labor and Welfare Matthew Cheung said the new policy avoids having a winner or loser in child custody disputes.

Cheung said the government will work with non-government organizations to launch a two-year pilot scheme but gave no further details.

Dennis Ho, chairman of the family law committee of the Law Society of Hong Kong, welcomed the proposal, saying it is line with the LRC recommendations.

However, Ho said the penalty for non-compliance — contempt of court — is not enough.

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