Substantial connection in jurisdictional matters – no separate test applied to parties without family in Hong Kong says the Court of Appeal in JQ v CLH CACV 350/2021


On 27 May 2021, His Honour Judge I Wong dismissed the Husband’s challenge against Hong Kong having jurisdiction over the Wife’s divorce petition. The Husband appealed.

CACV 350/2021 was heard before Hon Chow JA, Hon Barma and Chow JJA in the Court of Appeal.

The issue was whether the Husband had a substantial connection with Hong Kong as at the date of the petition.

The parties were born in Mainland China and are Mainland residents. They married in 2013 and had four children. At the time that the petition was issued in 2018, the Husband lived in Dongguan, two children of the family lived with the Wife in Shanghai, one child lived in the USA, and the eldest child lived away from the parties.

The Husband’s appeal proceeded on the basis that where there was no presence of family in Hong Kong, there should be a finding of exceptional circumstances before substantial connection could be established. The Husband argued that there was no exceptionality to his case as his own connections with Hong Kong were not so substantial that jurisdiction ought to be found.

However, the Court of Appeal clarified (§24 & 25):

  • ‘There is not a separate category of parties without the presence of family in Hong Kong who have to satisfy the requirement of “exceptionality” before jurisdiction under s 3(c) can be established….
  • …The pertinent, and only, question to ask is whether the Husband had a substantial connection with Hong Kong as at the date of the petition within the meaning of s 3(c) of the Ordinance.  This is a question of fact, which has been said to be “highly fact sensitive”, per H H Judge Sharon Melloy in Z v K [2019] HKFC 68, at §24.’

The Court of Appeal acknowledged that the Husband regularly came to Hong Kong for business and that Hong Kong remained the ‘home base’ of his finances and business. The Husband maintained a ‘consistent “economic and “social” presence’ in Hong Kong.

It has not been shown that the Judge’s conclusion is plainly wrong. As the Husband’s appeal is a mere disagreement with the Judge’s finding of fact on the issue of substantial connection, there was no valid basis to overturn the Judge’s finding.

The Husband’s appeal was therefore rejected.

Joanne Brown and Jamie Choy

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Disclaimer: This publication is general in nature and is not intended to constitute legal advice. You should seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters dealt with in this publication.