IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE
HONG KONG SPECIAL ADMINISTRATIVE REGION
SUIT NO. 7268 OF 2000
Coram: H.H. Judge Bruno Chan in Chambers
Date of Hearing: 17 January 2002
Date of Delivery of Judgment: 18 January 2002
J U D G M E N T
1. This is the hearing of the Respondent Wife's application to stay the Petitioner Husband's divorce proceedings on the ground that their marriage has already been dissolved in Singapore. The Petitioner has also taken out several applications including striking out the Acknowledgment of Service (Form 4) filed on behalf of the Respondent, and for custody of the children of the family which he would like me to deal with in the event that I refuse the Respondent's stay application. For convenience purpose I shall refer to the parties as Husband and Wife in this judgment.
2. The parties were married on 16th December 1989 in Hong Kong. Both were then residents in Hong Kong, with the Husband working as a medical doctor in the civil service, whilst the Wife was a certified public accountant. They have 3 children, all daughters now between 4 and 8 years of age. In 1996 the Husband left his job with the government to set up his own private practice. However he closed down his clinic 2 years later due to poor business and in May 1999 the family emigrated to Singapore.
3. Despite the move to a new environment their marriage could not last and after an incident between the parties which required police intervention, the Wife filed for divorce against the Husband on 6th July 2000 under Divorce Petition No. 2100 of 2000 in the High Court of Republic of Singapore on the ground of his unreasonable behaviour, and for the custody of their 3 children and ancillary relief including periodical payments for herself and the children as well as a determination of her interest in the former matrimonial home in Shatin, Hong Kong. Shortly after being served with the divorce papers in Singapore, the Husband returned to Hong Kong where he has since remained.
4. On 2nd August 2000 the Husband instituted the present proceedings in Hong Kong by issuing a petition for divorce based on the Wife's unreasonable behaviour in which he also prayed for custody of the 3 children and an order extinguishing the Wife's interest in their said Shatin property which is registered in the parties' joint names. He also in mid-August 2000 sent an application to the Singapore Court to dismiss the Wife's proceedings and an answer to her petition, but as he never returned to Singapore to prosecute his applications, it is believed that they have been dismissed by the Singapore Court.
5. On 14th September 2000 the Husband served his divorce papers on the Wife by post to her last known address in Singapore. On 26th September 2000 the Wife applied for Legal Aid in Hong Kong. On 26th November 2000 Legal Aid was granted to her for the purpose of applying to stay the present proceedings. Before the Husband could set his petition down for hearing in the uncontested list, the Wife's assigned solicitors filed her summons for stay on 12th February 2001. The supportive affidavit of her solicitor Mr Bough filed on behalf of the Wife on 19th February 2001 revealed that a decree nisi of divorce was already granted by the Singapore Court to her on 8th September 2000, and that on 19th January 2001 custody of all 3 children was also granted to her with reasonable access to the Husband. In the same order the Husband was also ordered to pay Singapore S$250 per month for the maintenance of the Wife and S$750 per month for the children, and that the said Shatin Property be sold with the net sale proceeds be divided equally between the parties. Finally the Husband was ordered to pay the Wife's costs of S$1,000. In the affidavit were exhibited copies of the Wife's divorce papers including the said decree nisi of divorce and orders. On both occasions the orders were made in the absence of the Husband.
6. As the hearing of the stay application on 9th March 2001 which was only set down for 3 minutes, the Husband indicated that he wished to challenge the validity of the decree nisi granted to the Wife as it was merely an unsealed copy and that he wished to oppose the application on the ground that it would be more convenient or practical for the Court in Hong Kong to deal with the divorce proceedings between the parties. The hearing was therefore adjourned for argument.
7. The parties have since filed more affidavits in support of their respective case. The Husband has also filed several more applications, some for the striking out of the Wife's Form 4 and for her solicitors to file another Notice to Act as the 1st one filed by them did not properly state their address, others for custody of the children and for an order for them to be brought back to Hong...