IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE
HONG KONG SPECIAL ADMINISTRATIVE REGION
MATRIMONIAL CAUSES NO. 809 OF 2004
Coram: H H Judge Carlson in Chambers
Date of Hearing: 18 June 2004
Date of Judgment: 21 June 2004
J U D G M E N T
1. There is a dispute between these parents as to whether Q, who is aged four and who is the younger of their two sons, should attend the reception class of the Chinese International School (CIS) at the start of the next academic year which starts in late August this year. As a result, I have to make the decision for them.
2. I will refer to them as the mother and the father.
3. The father, who is English, is aged 44. He is a solicitor and has lived in Hong Kong since 1987. He came to work for a large firm of solicitors and is currently a partner of a large firm. His practice is in the field of corporate finance in which he has enjoyed great success. His earnings are said to be in the region of $7 million to $10 million per annum. As a result, the parties and their children have been able to enjoy a very comfortable way of life. They have lacked for nothing. Nevertheless, his position in the partnership is almost certain to change very significantly as a result of changes in its structure and his earnings are very likely to go down although, for present purposes, that does not really matter.
4. The mother is 42. She is a Chinese American. She was born in San Francisco and her family continue to live in the United States. She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and she also came to Hong Kong in 1987, when she was 25. She has had a very successful career as a newspaper journalist and on radio and television. She stopped full-time work when the parties’ first child was born. The parties were married in England in October 1996. They have three children: S who was born on 3 April 1998 and so he is now six; Q who is four, having been born on 3 April 2000, so they share the same birthday; and K their sister who will be two on 23 July.
5. For present purposes, a very brief history of the marriage will suffice. The final matrimonial home, which is presently used by the father, is a spacious and well-appointed house at Sai Kung. The parties employ two maids and a driver. The driver would drive S and Q to their present school which is in Queen’s Road East, close to Pacific Place. The father would also drive in with them to his offices in Central and the driver was also available, and I daresay still is, to drive the mother to and from school and for any other journey that she needs to take. Apart from the obvious advantages of having help at home and somebody to drive the family, they have also enjoyed the other advantages that go with the father’s earnings including a house at Chamonix and in London as well as many holidays overseas and so forth.
6. Without embarking on the complexities that contribute to the break up of a marriage, it would appear that so far as the mother is concerned, the major cause has been the father’s admitted adultery with a number of women. Attempts had been made to save the relationship in 2001 when both of them attended counselling sessions but to no avail.
7. Things came to a head late last year when the mother felt that she could not go on in view of the father’s unfaithfulness. In March this year, she took the children with her and moved to a serviced two-bedroom flat at Parkside, Pacific Place, where the monthly rent of $68,000 is paid by the father. He occupies the former matrimonial home at Sai Kung and he also uses a small flat that he keeps in the Hollywood Road area. He gets regular access to the children at the weekends.
8. The divorce proceedings are still at a fairly early stage but as the father has made formal admissions of adultery, the petition is expected to proceed quickly on an undefended basis. Custody remains contested, but a Social Welfare Officer’s report is now available and I would have thought that this issue can also fall away once a decision can be made as to whether the parties should have joint custody with care and control to the mother. At present she is not inclined to agree to joint custody but it is very much hoped that she can be persuaded to accept that.
9. That would leave over financial provision. The parties are represented by very experienced solicitors and counsel, and with a measure of goodwill it is to be hoped that this too can be resolved. The assets are sufficient for that to happen.
10. So that is where the parties stand at present. From that I now turn to this discrete but important matter. The argument comes about in this way: both boys go to the International Montessori School in Queen’s Road East (IMS). Before the final break up of the parties’ relationship, it seems clear to me that both the mother and the father hoped that S and Q would be able to enter CIS. This was seen as an excellent choice for both of them, with perhaps K waiting in the wings to join her brothers in due course. It, after all, offers an excellent all-round education and particularly for a child who wishes to be fluent in both English and Mandarin. It is a school that tends to appeal to affluent Chinese parents who wish to have their children educated in English whilst at the same time leaving the school speaking fluent Mandarin and being able to read and write Chinese. It is a school that would also appeal to an Anglo-Chinese family such as this. The mother is a Mandarin speaker, in addition to English of course, and the father wishes to encourage Mandarin and Chinese fluency for all his children so that they may maximise the advantages of their background. He too speaks Mandarin and reads and writes Chinese.
11. I am convinced that the problem has its origins from the fact that S, the eldest child, who although very bright was unable to secure a place when an application was made on his behalf. He is a reserved boy and unfortunately the school felt unable to offer him a place. Q...