Changes to Divorce
The Government has recently amended the Matrimonial Causes
Ordinance (the divorce law) to bring it into line with the
general expectations of the public. This leaflet summarises
the main provisions of the amended Ordinance.
Ground for Divorce
The sole ground for divorce remains irretrievable breakdown
of a marriage. Following the changes this has to be supported
by one or more of the following five facts:
- unreasonable behaviour;
- desertion by a party for one year (previously 2 years);
- separation for one year where both parties consent to the
divorce (previously 2 years) ; and
- separation for two years where one party does not consent
(previously 5 years).
In addition, a new procedure of joint application for divorce
based on mutual consent has been introduced. Either of the
following may be cited as the basis for such an application:
- one year's prior notice (during which time the parties
do not need to live apart); and
- one year's prior separation.
Time Restriction on Divorce
Unless an exceptional case can be made out, no petition or
application for divorce can be presented to the Court until
a couple has been married for at least one year (previously
An exceptional case is one of exceptional hardship suffered
by or exceptional depravity on the part of a party to a marriage.
Amendments to the Ordinance have already come into operation.
Periods of separation or desertion which began prior to the
Ordinance coming into effect are recognised by the new provisions
as counting towards the new minimum period requirements.
Other Useful Information
Counselling and information on divorce-related matters such
as child custody and financial settlement can be obtained
from family services centres or counselling centres of the
Social Welfare Department and non-governmental organizations.
For further enquiry, please call the Social Welfare Department
Hotline 2343 2255.
[This leaflet only provides general information on the Ordinance.
The information is by no means exhaustive or definitive. You
should refer to the provisions of the Matrimonial Causes Ordinance,
as amended by the Matrimonial Causes (Amendment) Ordinance
(Ord. No. 29 of 1995), for an authoritative statement of the