rules of evidence apply.223 The strict rules of evidence do not seem to be applied in any proceedings involving the welfare of children in the Court of First Instance or District Court. This appears to be the case whether it be in wardship proceedings, proceedings under the Matrimonial Causes Ordinance (Cap 179) or proceedings under the Guardianship of Minors Ordinance (Cap 13).
Part C - The Court in Practice
Standard procedures in divorce
2.166It is not possible to limit this part to dealing only with custody matters as the arrangements for children are an integral part of the divorce process. The following are the usual steps taken for divorce:
The applicant spouse files a petition for divorce in the Family Court Registry.
The respondent spouse is served the petition and may reply to it.
In some case there may be urgent applications for interim orders such as interim access, custody or maintenance.
Affidavits may be filed at this stage though it is recommended that the report of the social welfare officer is obtained first.
The matter comes into the court list for a decree nisi.
Usually the divorce decree is undefended, though there may be disputes concerning property, maintenance, custody or access.
If the divorce is undefended, the petitioner will be called to verify the accuracy of the petition and the statements concerning the arrangements for any children. This is in open court. The respondent may or may not attend. If he does attend, the judge will confirm whether he wishes to defend the proceedings.
If there has been agreement on custody, access and other matters then the judge can approve the agreement and make final orders. However, an application for the decree absolute can only be made 6 weeks later. The decree absolute will not issue for another two months approximately.
2.167Concern has been expressed that long divorce lists mean that the judge has little time to consider the arrangements for the children in cases where the parties have reached agreement.224 In those cases there are no social inquiry reports.
223 Report on Hearsay Rule in Civil Proceedings (1996: Topic 3).
224 Article in the South China Morning Post, of the 21 or 22 December 1991.