Hong Kong Family Law — Family Court orders permanent relocation of two young children to Singapore with their Father
In CN v LYP  HKFC 73, the Family Court ordered permanent relocation of two young children (a girl aged 7 and a boy aged 3) to Singapore with the Father. At the same time, the Mother had applied to permanently relocate the children to Dongguan, China, with her maternal family, which was not granted. The family had lived in Hong Kong during the marriage on the Father’s work visa. When the parties’ marriage broke down and the Father had to return to Singapore for work, relocation became inevitable.
Upon careful consideration of, inter alia, the matters below, the Court concluded that the Social Welfare Officer’s recommendation that the children relocate with the Mother to Dongguan should not be followed and that little weight should be placed on the daughter’s apparently expressed preference to be with the Mother in Dongguan given her young age, immaturity and misunderstanding as to the situation:
(1) The Father’s relocation plan was financially sustainable on the Father’s current income. The children were Singapore citizens and enjoyed education, healthcare and other public services at a highly subsidized rate. On the other hand, the Court had doubts as to the financial sustainability of the Mother’s relocation plan. One of the reasons was because neither of the Children have “hukous” in Dongguan and will have to pay full fees for education which were beyond the parties’ means. Further, the Mother relied on her sisters for financial support and accommodation but no evidence was adduced as to their respective financial position, ability and commitment to providing for the children in the long-term.
(2) The Father was willing to keep the Mother informed on matters concerning the children and to involve her in the children’s lives. On the other hand, the Mother was not as ready to acknowledge the Father’s role in the children’s lives. The Mother made no effort to give the daughter a correct understanding of the parents’ situation and to rectify misunderstandings between them, including a wrong impression that her Father had abandoned her and that there was a stepmother in Singapore. The son called his Father “uncle” during video access and the Mother took no step to correct the son’s misunderstanding.
(3) The Father was aware of the children’s emotional needs and recognized that the relocation to Singapore (which was unfamiliar to both of the children) would be challenging. He demonstrated commitment to child care and in assisting the children through the transition. On the other hand, the Mother would have to work for extended hours in order to make ends meet if the children relocate to Dongguan, which meant that she would have little time to attend to the needs of her children.
(4) The son who was only 3 years old was too young to express a view. Whilst the daughter who was 7 years old expressed a preference to stay with her Mother in Dongguan, the Court took the view that it had to approach her views with caution. She was still young and had not yet attained the maturity to appreciate the situation. She admitted that she was unsure about her parents’ situation and had a wrong impression that the Father had abandoned her and that there was a stepmother in Singapore.
The children were ordered to relocate with the Father to Singapore. The Father undertook to apply for a mirror order and was agreeable to a supervision order for 12 months.
Vivien Leung, Member of Denis Chang’s Chambers, was instructed by Ip & Heathfield and acted for the successful Applicant Father.
See the Judgment here.
Vivien is a recommended barrister in the Doyle’s Guide for Leading Family & Divorce Law Barristers – Hong Kong, 2023.
Vivien has over 13 years of experience in litigation. She trained and practised as a commercial litigator from 2009 to 2016 at Deacons. Thereafter, from 2016 to 2019, she practised as a family lawyer at Withers before joining the Bar 3 years ago.
Vivien advises on all aspects of matrimonial finance and children’s matters and has particular experience in handling divorce cases with a cross-border or international element. She is a member of the Committee on Family Law of the Hong Kong Bar Association.
Disclaimer: This article does not constitute legal advice and seeks to set out the general principles of the law. Detailed advice should therefore be sought from a legal professional relating to the individual merits and facts of a particular case. The photographs which appear in this article are included for decorative purposes only and should not be taken as a depiction of any matter to which the case is related. The views and opinions expressed in this article/material are solely those of the members authoring it and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Denis Chang’s Chambers.