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2.168If no agreement has been reached on custody or access then the case will be adjourned to a call over date.  Directions can be given on such matters as a social welfare officer’s report, or expert report of a child psychologist.  It is preferable that affidavits are not lodged until after the court welfare officer’s report or the psychologist’s report is available.  This is because some cases will settle as the parties will decide to abide by the recommendation of the officer’s report.  At the next call over, the report will be available to the judge and the parties.

2.169The report, which can take some months to prepare,225 is prepared by one of the 16 officers attached to the Child Custody Services Unit.  The unit prepared 709 reports in 1995-1996.226  While the report is awaited the status quo is maintained, which operates to the disadvantage of the spouse who does not have physical custody. 227  Inevitably, it will contain hearsay.  This is “unobjectionable when it is in respect of uncontroversial matters”.228

2.170While the court will seek reports from a welfare officer, it will not generally seek a psychiatric report.  In C v H the High Court refused to order a psychiatric report on two children, who were born outside marriage and who were wards of court, “as no adequate reason had been put forward for subjecting both girls to a psychiatric examination”.  It was accepted that the girls were not in need of any psychiatric care.229

2.171Fuad J agreed with Cross J in Re S (Infants)230 “that if both parties agree on the need for a medical examination and the person who should conduct it, normally the court would accede to their wishes.”  Fuad J also expressed concern that:

“if orders of the kind sought here were given in ... ordinary cases, parties and their advisers might be driven to the conclusion that the court will feel that a case has been properly prepared unless an expert medical report has been obtained; and if one is to be obtained, should it be sought from a physician ..., a psychiatrist, a paediatrician, or an educational psychologist?”231

2.172Where an examination is felt to be necessary for a special reason, then the particular expertise required to assist the court will be readily apparent and the court will be able to make an appropriate order.232  Fuad J approved of the father seeking the consent of the court before examining the children.  He referred to Willmer LJ in B(M) v B(R)233 who strongly urged “that parents who are in dispute with each other should at least cooperate in jointly instructing a doctor or paediatrician or psychiatrist in the event of it being thought desirable to obtain an

225 Warren and Francis, Divorce and Separation in Hong Kong, (1995) at 86.  However, Social Welfare Department have informed us that the current time is six to eight weeks.

226 The respective numbers for 1993/4 were 831 and 626 for 1994/5.

227 W v W [1981] HKC 466, 468, relying on Thompson v Thompson (The Times, 2 March 1975), unreported.

228 Bokhary J, ibid, referring to Rayden on Divorce (13th ed. 1979), 1037.

229 [1981] HKC 433.

230 [1967] 1 WLR 396,405 and 407.

231 Ibid at 436.

232 Ibid at 436.

233 [1968] 1 WLR 1182, 1185.

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