The Family Dispute Resolution Process
The Law Reform Commission released its report on The family dispute resolution process on 27 March 2003. The report looks at the various approaches which may be adopted in resolving family disputes, and focuses particularly on the use of mediation. The report makes recommendations to strengthen family mediation services and to enhance the family litigation process.
The Commission's focus in reviewing this area was on recommending ways to minimise the adversarial nature of family proceedings so as to promote the best interests of the child. The Commission has formed the view that the emotional harm experienced by parties involved in family proceedings, especially children, can be greatly reduced if mediation is used to resolve the matters in dispute between the parties. The Commission therefore proposes that the use of family mediation should be strongly supported and encouraged by the courts and the Administration.
In relation to support services for family mediation, the Commission endorses the Pilot Scheme on Family Mediation which is currently operating at the Family Court, and recommends that providing access to, and promoting, mediation services should be an integral part of the Family Court system. In line with current arrangements under the Pilot Scheme, the report recommends that free, court-based information sessions should be provided to parties contemplating divorce, to inform them about family support services and alternatives to litigation which are available such as mediation. Counselling conferences should also be introduced. Their purpose would be to assist divorcing parties to resolve emotional conflicts which may be preventing them from reaching agreement on practical issues, particularly the future custody and access arrangements for their children. The report also recommends that solicitors should be under an obligation to advise their clients about the availability of information sessions, counselling and mediation services.
On the general role of mediators, the report's recommendations aim at ensuring that mediation in Hong Kong operates in accordance with clear guidelines and with adequate resources, so that the integrity of the process and the quality of mediation services will be maintained. The report makes recommendations relating to the training of mediators, their system of accreditation, guidelines on separation of roles for mediators who are also lawyers and social welfare officers, and mechanisms to allow the views of the child to be considered in the mediation process. The Commission also recommends that legal aid should be available for mediation.
Recommendations for improvements to the family litigation process include more powers to judges to manage the course of family proceedings and to control costs, the introduction of target times for the disposal of civil cases concerning children, the holding of issues and settlement conferences to further promote agreement between the parties, and the introduction of target times for the production of social welfare reports. The Commission also recommends that more statistics on child-related cases should be maintained by the Family Court, but that children's privacy should be protected by a practice direction to control the release of unreported judgments concerning children. The report endorses the adoption of codes of practice for lawyers dealing with family cases, especially those involving children.
|Press Release (PDF) (MS Word)|
|Executive Summary (PDF) (MS Word)|
|Report (PDF) (MS Word)|