Divorce in Hong Kong – How to Apply for Divorce within the First Year of Marriage


Divorce in Hong Kong – the One-year Rule

香港离婚诉讼-结婚满一年之前如何申请As stipulated by Section 12 of the Matrimonial Causes Ordinance (Chapter 179) , generally, no petition for divorce shall be presented to the court before the expiration of 1 year from the date of the marriage.  In another word, if the marriage has not yet lasted for one year, no application for divorce shall be made in the general case.   

The reason for such stipulation is that the law has considered the solemnity of marriage while no arbitrary decision of marriage or divorce is encouraged.  That is very different from the Marriage Law of the Mainland China.  In the Mainland China, there is no time limit between the date of marriage and the date of divorce, it is perfectly possible for a couple get married on one day and register for divorce on the next day.

The Exceptions to the One- year Rule

Section 12 of the Matrimonial Causes Ordinance (Chapter 179) also sets out the exceptional situations where presentation of a petition for divorce is allowed even the marriage has not yet lasted for one year, which includes exceptional hardship suffered by the petitioner or the exceptional depravity of the respondent.  In determining such application, the judge shall have regard to the interests of any child of the family and whether there is reasonable probability of a reconciliation between the parties.  However, in practice, the petition for divorce presented within the first year of marriage based on this subsection of exception is rare.  The main reason is that it is very difficult for the petitioner to prove the exceptional hardship he/she suffers or the exceptional depravity of his/ her spouse.  Besides, the standard of such exception is quiet subjective and very uncertain.

Advise from Hong Kong Divorce Lawyer

Usually we advise our client to wait until the expiration of the period of 1 year from the date of the marriage to present the petition for divorce to the court. Alternatively, the client may consider to apply for legal separation instead of divorce to the court.  The legal separation application is not subject to the one-year rule, the legal effect of which is of no difference to divorce in the main aspects (eg., separation of living, the custody of child, the adjustment of property or the maintenance will be decided in such application) except that the marriage has not yet been dissolved.


If there is any inquiry, please feel free to consult the Matrimony and Family Team of YAN Lawyers.

Tags: , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Name (required)

Email (will not be published) (required)