Breaking up is hard to do, but the first meeting with a divorce lawyer is a chance to share your situation and priorities and learn more about the divorce process.
So, what do you need to ask? Here are five key questions to put to a divorce lawyer on the first meeting from by Jaerey Velasco, Partner at law firm Payne Clermont Velasco, and a qualified Collaborative Practitioner.
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1. What do you need to know from me?
Many clients usually don’t know where to start with their story when they meet with a divorce lawyer for the first time. Let the lawyer guide you through the process and allow them to gather information that will better assist him/her in answering your questions.
2. Can I file for divorce in Hong Kong?
a) You need to be married for at least one year before you can file for divorce.
b) Even if you were married in a different country, you can still file for divorce in Hong Kong if either you or your spouse is either domiciled in Hong Kong, or has been in Hong Kong for the period of three years before the filing of Petition, or has substantial connection with Hong Kong.
c) You then need to satisfy that the marriage has broken down irretrievably by establishing at least one of the grounds as proof: (i) unreasonable behaviour; (ii) one year separation with consent; (iii) two years separation; (iv) desertion; or (v) adultery.
3. How long will the divorce process take?
Every case is unique and the time varies, as it’s affected by many factors such as the complexity of the case, the relationship between the parties, and the issues concerning the children and finances. The lawyer should be able to give you an idea of the procedure and timelines of your divorce. Typically, the process for a straightforward uncontested divorce will take around nine months from the filing of the Petition to the Decree Absolute.
4. Can I have custody of my children?
It is a misconception that only one parent has custody of the children. When the Court decides on children matters, the welfare and best interests of the children are the first and paramount consideration. Usually the Court orders joint custody so both parents can make important decisions affecting the upbringing of the children; however, there are some exceptions.
5. What are my options to avoid going to court?
At your meeting, you can ask about options available to you and your spouse to avoid bitter and costly proceedings. If your relationship with your spouse is amicable, then you can opt for a mediation or collaborative process so that when you file for divorce, you can also file a document called Consent Summons, which sets out the terms of agreement between the parties concerning settlement on finances and children (if any).
Demystify the divorce process and get the best deal for you with Payne Clermont Velasco
This leading Hong Kong law firm focuses on civil litigation, with particular expertise in matrimonial disputes.
Any couples negotiating child custody issues, as the firm has experience in areas including international relocation of children and prevention of unlawful removal of children from Hong Kong.
Firm founder Greg Payne has successfully represented wives whose husbands had attempted to hide behind a family trust to avoid their financial obligations.