December 13, 2015
Source: South China Morning Post
I am grateful for Mrs Priscilla Lui’s support, in her letter “Additional resources can ensure ‘Children’s Bill’ is effective” (December 3), for the government’s proposed legislation to implement the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission in its Report on Child Custody and Access.
It has taken us some time to follow up on this report as we had to deal first with two other related reports by the Law Reform Commission in the same series. These are the Report on Guardianship of Children and the Report on International Parental Child Abduction. The relevant legislation is now fully in place.
The present exercise focuses on the introduction of a “parental responsibility model” in relation to child custody and access. Underlying the proposed reform is the emphasis on the best interests of children on divorce. This would represent a paradigm shift and a major law reform.
The Labour and Welfare Bureau conducted a public consultation on the Law Reform Commission report from December 2011 to April 2012 on whether the “parental responsibility model” should be implemented by legislative means. While some respondents supported the concept, others expressed concern over the precise legal provisions and implementation details.
We have thus prepared a draft Children Proceedings (Parental Responsibility) Bill for four more months of public consultation. This is a mammoth legislative exercise as the proposed bill seeks to reform and consolidate the law relating to the responsibilities and rights of parents for children, particularly on proceedings involving children. In light of public feedback, we will refine the draft bill before introducing it into the Legislative Council.
We are keenly aware of the need for appropriate support services. A series of support measures have been, and will be, implemented by the government in partnership with non-governmental organisations and other interested parties. Among other things, the Social Welfare Department has launched a territory-wide campaign titled “Marriage may end but parenthood goes on”.
The department will also launch a pilot project on children contact service in the first half of 2016-17 to facilitate the arrangement of children’s contact with separated/divorced parents and strengthen support for separated/divorced families.
We will continue to listen to the views of stakeholders and our partner NGOs in considering the support measures and resources needed for implementing the Law Reform Commission’s recommendations.
Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, secretary for labour and welfare
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