2. My wife wants to apply for divorce and she plans to take our only daughter out of Hong Kong during the waiting period. Can I stop her?
If that is the case, you may consider instituting wardship proceedings in the High Court. Wardship proceedings can be instituted at any time when there are special concerns about a child's welfare such as when it is suspected that a child would be, or has been, removed from Hong Kong.
Once wardship proceedings have been instituted, the Court has very wide and far-reaching powers to make any order, including financial provision that is necessary to protect the interests and welfare of the ‘ward’ / the child.
In cases where a child has been taken out of Hong Kong, the Court can order that the child be sought and found, seeking the cooperation and assistance of other relevant authorities such as the Immigration Department.
Once a child is made as a ‘ward’, he or she is automatically prohibited from leaving Hong Kong without the consent of the Court.
Wardship proceedings are an entirely different form of proceedings which can be issued irrespective of any divorce or separation proceedings. It can be started quite quickly by any interested party – which is not necessarily a parent.
If circumstances are justified, wardship proceedings could be commenced by the Director of Social Services, who is empowered to protect children.
The issuing of wardship proceedings immediately makes the child concerned a Ward of the Court.
Once a child becomes a “Ward of the Court”, this means that the Court has the custody of that child and every major decision regarding that child’s welfare must be referred to the Court by making application accordingly. This would incur costs and, subject to the caseloads of the Court, can be very time-consuming.
That child remains a ward of the court until the child reaches the age of majority, or until a special Court order is made to end the wardship. Wardship proceedings should not be instituted lightly, but only where there are good grounds to justify it.