Family, Matrimonial and Cohabitation
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2. How do I apply for divorce? (with a brief summary of the relevant procedures)

You are advised to consult a lawyer before submitting the relevant documents and attending hearings in the Family Court.

You need to go through the following stages:-

(Stage 1) Presenting a petition for divorce

(Stage 2) Serving (delivering) my petition to my spouse

(Stage 3) Fixing a court hearing date

(Stage 4) Decree Nisi – a tentative court order for divorce

(Stage 5) Final order for divorce

(Stage 1) Presenting a petition for divorce

To start divorce proceedings, you need to fill in:

Form 2 Petition (the form that you need to fill in depends on your particular circumstances or grounds for divorce)
Form 2B Statement as to the arrangements for children (if applicable)
Form 2E Financial Statement for financial dispute (if applicable)
Form 3 Notice of Proceedings
Form 4 Acknowledgement of Service (case number and name of parties only, other items to be completed by the respondent)

In the case of a Joint Application (which means you and your spouse have agreed to apply together for a divorce), you need to fill in:

Form 2C Joint application
Form 2D Statement as to the arrangements for children (if applicable)

All forms you need are available from the Family Court Registry and may be completed in English or Chinese. When you have filled them in, take them to the Family Court Registry for filing, together with your original marriage certificate or a certified true copy. The filing fee is $630. You will be given a case number, which must be marked on any subsequently filed documents.

(Stage 2) Serving (delivering) my petition to my spouse

Now that you have started legal proceedings, you are known as the "petitioner" and your spouse is known as the "respondent". After filing your petition, you must arrange for a sealed copy ( “sealed” meaning a copy with the court’s chop on it) of the petition to be served on every other party to the proceedings, either by hand or by post. Note that you must not serve the petition on the respondent yourself. Instead you must use the services of a third person, or send the petition by post. If the petition fails to reach the respondent by hand or by post, the petition can be advertised in newspapers (with the approval of the Court) as a substitute way to notify the respondent.

In the case a Joint Application, there is no need to arrange for a sealed copy to be served on the other party.

(Stage 3) Fixing a court hearing date

After your petition has been served on the respondent you should next apply to the Registrar for directions to set down the case for trial (i.e. to fix a date for a court hearing), using an application form obtainable from the Family Court Registry. Your petition or application will be set down for hearing in one of the following lists on payment of the stated fee:

Where a petition is concerned, before the case can be set down, the Registrar must be satisfied that the petition has been served on the respondent. This can be proved either by showing that the respondent has completed and returned a Form 4 (Acknowledgment of Service) to the Registrar, or by having the person who served the documents on the respondent file an affirmation confirming that the petition has been delivered to the respondent. Joint Applications will be set down provided that the relevant documents are in order.

The Registrar will make directions on the date, place and time of the trial and will notify you and the other parties.

(Stage 4) Decree Nisi – a tentative court order for divorce

Special Procedure List

If you have petitioned for divorce but the respondent does not file an answer in response to your petition, the petition will be set down in the Special Procedure List. Joint Applications also come under the Special Procedure List.

After the Registrar has given directions for trial, he will consider the evidence you have filed. If he is satisfied that you have proved the contents of the petition or application, he will make and file a certificate to that effect. Both parties will receive a copy, endorsed with the terms they have agreed. There is no need for either party to attend the hearing. The Court will grant a decree nisi (a tentative court order) dissolving the marriage.

Defended List

Where a petition for divorce is made and the respondent has filed an answer, the petition will be set down in the Defended List. In such cases, the Court will either grant a decree nisi dissolving the marriage, or will dismiss the petition if insufficient evidence is found. In the case of a petition listed on the Defended List, either or both of the parties may need to attend the court hearing.

In the event of court granting the decree of divorce, if the question of child custody and access arises, or if there are applications for ancillary relief by either party, the court will adjourn these matters to Chambers with directions for social investigations report and filing of affidavit of means by the parties where appropriate.

(Stage 5) Final order for divorce

6 weeks after the Court has granted a decree nisi, you can apply for your decree to be made absolute (a final order for divorce) by sending a completed "Notice of Application for Decree Nisi to be made Absolute" to the Court, using Form 5 (for a petition) or Form 5A (for a joint application).

If there are children of the marriage, the decree nisi will not be made absolute until the Court declares that it is satisfied with the arrangements made for them. The Registrar will issue a Certificate of Decree Absolute to each party if the registrar is satisfied that the statutory requirements have been complied with.

(For more details of the above procedures, you may also visit the website of the Judiciary of Hong Kong on “How to apply for a divorce”.)

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