Family, Matrimonial and Cohabitation
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1. What are the grounds for divorce? Must I explain why I want a divorce?

In law, there is in fact only one ground for presenting a petition for divorce, namely, that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.

Under section 11A of the Matrimonial Causes Ordinance(Cap. 179 of the Laws of Hong Kong) , except in the case of a Joint Application for divorce, the Court shall not hold the marriage to have broken down irretrievably unless the applicant for divorce (i.e. the petitioner) satisfies the Court of one or more of the following facts:

  • that your spouse has committed adultery and you find it intolerable to live with your spouse;
  • that your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot be reasonably expected to live with your spouse; Usually it is a series of misconducts or intolerable behaviour. However, a single incident of grave misconduct is enough;
  • that you and your spouse have lived apart for a continuous period of at least 1 year before filing the petition and that your spouse consent to a divorce;
  • that you and your spouse have lived apart for a continuous period of at least 2 years immediately before filing the petition for divorce (in such a case your spouse's consent to a divorce is not required);
  • that your spouse has deserted you for a continuous period of at least 1 year immediately before filing the petition for divorce.

In the case of a Joint Application for divorce, both parties must prove either or both of the following two conditions to the Court (section 11B of the Matrimonial Causes Ordinance):

  • that the parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of at least 1 year immediately preceding the making of the application; OR
  • that not less than 1 year prior to the making of the application a written notice (Form 2E) signed by both parties of their intention to apply to the court to dissolve their marriage was given to the Court and that the notice was not subsequently withdrawn.

If there are children of the family who are under the age of 18, you must include in your petition your proposal as to their custody and access. If you wish to apply for ancillary relief such as maintenance, transfer of property, division of matrimonial assets, etc., you should also pray so in your petition.

Note: According to section 11C of the Matrimonial Causes Ordinance, a husband and wife shall be treated as "living apart" unless they are living with each other in the same household.

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