should in any case not take longer than six weeks.
12.11The sub-committee recommend that social welfare officers preparing reports for the Family Court should have a minimum of 3 years’ experience in family and child care work, and their training should include the preparation of court reports.
12.12Even though section 3(1)(i)(B) of the Guardianship of Minors Ordinance (Cap 13) provides that the judge shall give due consideration to “any material information” it may be that this is insufficient power to order an independent expert’s report in the face of opposition from one of the parties. The court should be able to order a report from an expert such as a psychologist, registered social worker or child psychiatrist at the request of only one of the parties, but be able to order the other party to comply so that the expert can interview the children and both spouses.
12.13At the moment, one spouse can veto the request so that only the social welfare officer’s report can be ordered. This may be particularly important if allegations of physical or sexual abuse were made and medical or psychological examinations were needed. It should also be possible for the court on its own initiative to order an expert report from a person other than the social welfare officer.
12.14We recommend that the court have a power to order a report from an independent expert, such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, paediatrician, registered social worker or other relevant expert.
Statistics and research
12.15Young1178 referred to research analyzing Hong Kong custody orders from 1978-1980 which showed a judicial preference for awarding custody to fathers. This would go against a worldwide trend.1179
12.16There were 14,482 petitions for divorce filed in 1997. There is no breakdown available of the proportion of family cases which relate to custody or property.1180 The Family Law Association has proposed that a database be established to identify how many custody cases are agreed or disputed to assist policy making and law reform. The judiciary were reported to have supported this in principle but had reservations about manpower.
12.17The dearth of statistics on the number of custody, access and guardianship proceedings that are issued, and how many are contested, needs to be addressed. It would be useful to have those statistics to identify the need for changing policy or increasing resources. Indeed, the Australian and New Zealand Family Courts have research divisions which produce research papers containing not only
1178 “Child Protection and Custody”, Central Policy Unit seminar on 9 November 1994.
1179 Justitia, “Divorce in Hong Kong - a Statistical Approach” HKU, student publication (1982).
1180 “Divorce privacy to be respected”, Eastern Express, 26 December 1995.