Marriage Reform Ordinance


Published: 1997-06-30

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Cap 178 - MARRIAGE REFORM ORDINANCE 1

Chapter: 178 MARRIAGE REFORM ORDINANCE Gazette Number Version Date

Long title 30/06/1997


To make provision with regard to customary marriages, concubinage, modern marriages and the dissolution of
marriages, and for connected purposes.


[10 July 1970]


(Originally 68 of 1970)

Part: I PRELIMINARY 30/06/1997




Section: 1 Short title 30/06/1997


This Ordinance may be cited as the Marriage Reform Ordinance.

Section: 2 Interpretation 34 of 1999 01/07/1997


Remarks:
Adaptation amendments retroactively made - see 34 of 1999 s. 3


In this Ordinance, unless the context otherwise requires-
"appointed day" (指定日期) means 7 October 1971; (Replaced 34 of 1999 s. 3)
"Chinese law and custom" (中國法律與習俗) means such of the laws and customs of China as would immediately

prior to 5 April 1843 have been applicable to Chinese inhabitants of Hong Kong; (Amended 34 of 1999 s. 3)
"customary marriage" (舊式婚姻) means a marriage celebrated in Hong Kong in accordance with section 7;
"designated public officer" (指明公職人員) means a public officer designated for the purposes of Part V by the

Chief Executive under section 22; (Amended 34 of 1999 s. 3)
"Modern marriage" (新式婚姻) means a marriage celebrated in Hong Kong before the appointed day by open

ceremony as a modern marriage and in the presence of 2 or more witnesses;
"parties to a customary marriage" (舊式婚姻的雙方) means the husband and the principal wife (tsai) whether such

wife is a kit fat or a tin fong wife; and, for the avoidance of doubt, "party to a customary marriage" (舊式婚姻的
一方) does not include a concubine (tsip);

"Registrar" (登記官) means the Registrar of Marriages, and any deputy registrar of marriages, appointed under
section 3 of the Marriage Ordinance (Cap 181);

"validated marriage" (認可婚姻) means a modern marriage made valid by section 8.

Section: 3 (Repealed 34 of 1999 s. 3) 34 of 1999 01/07/1997


Remarks:
Adaptation amendments retroactively made - see 34 of 1999 s. 3

Part: II MARRIAGES ON AND AFTER APPOINTED DAY 30/06/1997




Section: 4 Marriages on and after appointed day to be monogamous 30/06/1997


Marriages entered into in Hong Kong on or after the appointed day shall imply the voluntary union for life of
one man with one woman to the exclusion of all others and may be contracted only in accordance with the Marriage
Ordinance (Cap 181).



Cap 178 - MARRIAGE REFORM ORDINANCE 2

(Amended 62 of 1979 s. 2)

Section: 5 Status of concubinage not to be acquired on and after

appointed day
30/06/1997



(1) On or after the appointed day, no man may take a concubine and no woman may acquire the status of a
concubine.

(2) Subsection (1) shall not affect in any way-
(a) the status or rights of a concubine lawfully taken before the appointed day; or
(b) the status or rights of a child, whether born before, on or after the appointed day, of a concubine

lawfully taken before the appointed day.

Section: 6 Kim tiu (兼祧) marriages not to be entered into 30/06/1997


(1) On or after the appointed day no person shall contract a kim tiu (兼祧) marriage.
(2) Subsection (1) shall not affect in any way-

(a) the status or rights of a party to a kim tiu (兼祧) marriage lawfully contracted before the appointed
day;

(b) the status or rights of a child, whether born before, on or after the appointed day, of parties to a kim tiu
(兼祧) marriage contracted before the appointed day.


Part: III CUSTOMARY AND MODERN MARRIAGES 30/06/1997




Section: 7 Customary marriage 30/06/1997


(1) For the purposes of this Ordinance, a marriage shall constitute a customary marriage if it was or is
celebrated in Hong Kong before the appointed day in accordance with Chinese law and custom.

(2) A marriage shall be deemed to accord with Chinese law and custom if it was celebrated or is celebrated
before the appointed day in Hong Kong in accordance with the traditional Chinese customs accepted at the time of the
marriage as appropriate for the celebration of marriage either-

(a) in the part of Hong Kong where the marriage took place; or
(b) in the place recognized by the family of either party to the marriage as their family place of origin.

(3) A customary marriage of persons who are subject to Chinese law and custom is hereby declared to be a
valid marriage.

Section: 8 Validation of modern marriage 30/06/1997


Subject to section 14, every marriage celebrated in Hong Kong before the appointed day as a modern marriage
by a man and a woman each of whom, at the time of the marriage, was not less than 16 years of age and was not
married to any other person shall be a valid marriage, and shall be deemed to have been valid since the time of
celebration, notwithstanding -

(a) that the proper personal law and religion of the parties, or one of them, was Chinese law and custom,
and the marriage was prohibited by or failed to comply with the requirements of Chinese law and
custom; or

(b) that the marriage was not under and in accordance with the Marriage Ordinance (Cap 181).

Part: IV POST-REGISTRATION OF CUSTOMARY

MARRIAGES AND VALIDATED MARRIAGES
30/06/1997







Cap 178 - MARRIAGE REFORM ORDINANCE 3

Section: 9 Registration of customary marriages and validated
marriages

30/06/1997



(1) The Registrar shall maintain separate registers for the registration of customary marriages and validated
marriages.

(2) The parties to a customary marriage or a validated marriage celebrated in Hong Kong before the appointed
day may apply to the Registrar in the prescribed manner at any time for the registration of their marriage.

(3) The District Court shall have jurisdiction to hear and determine an application by a person claiming to be a
party to a customary marriage or a validated marriage for a declaration that a customary marriage or validated
marriage, as the case may be, subsists between that person and the other party to such marriage where-

(a) the other party disputes the existence of the marriage;
(b) the other party is unwilling to join in the application for the registration of the marriage under this

section; or
(c) the whereabouts of the other party cannot after careful and reasonable inquiry be ascertained or it is for

any other reason impracticable for such other party to be apprised of the application for the registration
of the marriage under this section. (Replaced 62 of 1979 s. 3)

(4) One party to a customary marriage or a validated marriage celebrated in Hong Kong before the appointed
day may-

(a) with the consent in writing of the other party to the marriage; or
(b) where the District Court has under subsection (3) declared the marriage to subsist,

apply to the Registrar in the prescribed manner at any time for the registration of the marriage.
(5) Where the Registrar is satisfied that-

(a) the particulars contained in any application under this section are true; and
(b) a form of marriage did take place between the parties named at the time and place and before the

witnesses specified in the application; and
(c) the marriage constitutes either a valid customary marriage or a validated marriage,

he shall prepare a certificate of marriage in the prescribed form and the Registrar, and the applicants, or applicant as
the case may be, and 2 witnesses to the marriage, shall thereupon sign duplicate certificates; but a certificate shall not
be invalidated by the absence of signature by one or both witnesses if the Registrar is satisfied that one or both is or
are not available, and cannot reasonably be made available, to sign and he records that he is so satisfied on the
certificate.

(6) When a certificate is signed in accordance with subsection (5), the Registrar shall deliver one certificate to
the applicants or applicant and the other certificate shall form part of the register which the Registrar is required to
maintain under subsection (1).

(7) Where, on an application to the Registrar under this section, the Registrar is not satisfied with respect to the
matters specified in subsection (5)(a), (b) and (c), a party to the marriage may apply to the District Court for a
declaration that a customary marriage or a validated marriage, as the case may be, subsists between the parties, and the
District Court shall have jurisdiction to hear and determine any such application.

Section: 10 Power of Registrar 30/06/1997


(1) Upon receipt of an application under section 9 for the registration of a customary marriage or a validated
marriage, the Registrar may-

(a) summon before him any applicant, any alleged party to the marriage and any person alleged to have
been present at the marriage, and may require any person so summoned to answer such questions as
the Registrar may ask for the purpose of determining the application before him;

(b) require any applicant to furnish such further information either by statutory declaration or otherwise as
he may reasonably require.

(2) Any person who, without lawful excuse, fails to comply with a summons or requirement issued or made
under subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable to a fine at level 1 and to imprisonment for 6
months. (Amended L.N. 25 of 1996)

Section: 11 Effect of certificate of marriage registered under this Part 30/06/1997


A certificate of marriage registered under this Part, or a copy of such a certificate, shall if it purports to be signed



Cap 178 - MARRIAGE REFORM ORDINANCE 4

and certified as a true copy by the Registrar and to be sealed or stamped with his official seal be admissible as
evidence of the marriage to which it relates in any court and before any person having by law or by consent of parties
authority to hear, receive, and examine evidence.

Section: 12 Correction of error in certificate of marriage 30/06/1997


The Registrar may correct any clerical error in any certificate of marriage registered under this Part on
production to him of the certificate delivered to the parties, and shall authenticate every such correction by his
signature, or by marking the same with his initials, and the date of making the correction.

Section: 13 Searches may be made and certified copies granted 5 of 1999 05/02/1999


(1) The Registrar may allow searches to be made amongst all certificates, registers and indices in his
possession for the purposes of this Part and may give a certified copy of any entry therein, and issue a certificate that
there is no record of any marriage of the person named having been registered under this Part. (Amended 5 of 1999 s.
2)

(2) A certificate issued or purporting to be issued under this section before the commencement of the Marriage
(Certificate of Absence of Marriage Record) Ordinance 1999 (5 of 1999) shall be deemed to have been issued as if
that Ordinance had been in force at the time of its issue. (Added 5 of 1999 s. 2)

Part: V DISSOLUTION OF VALIDATED MARRIAGES AND

CUSTOMARY MARRIAGES
30/06/1997





Section: 14 Dissolution of validated marriages 30/06/1997


The dissolution, at any time before the appointed day, of a validated marriage by the mutual consent of the
parties to the marriage signified by the signature of each of the parties in the presence of 2 other persons who have
also signed as attesting witnesses, to an agreement or memorandum in writing which sets forth unequivocally the final
and complete dissolution of the marriage shall be valid for all purposes and shall be deemed to have been so valid
since the execution of the agreement or memorandum.

Section: 15 Dissolution of certain marriages on and after the

appointed day
30/06/1997



A customary marriage or a validated marriage subsisting on the appointed day and registered in accordance with
Part IV may where at least one party to the marriage has a substantial connection with Hong Kong be dissolved on or
after the day upon which such marriage has been so registered-

(a) in accordance with the Matrimonial Causes Ordinance (Cap 179); or
(b) in accordance with this Part.

(Replaced 62 of 1979 s. 4)

Section: 16 Notice of intention to dissolve marriage 30/06/1997


(1) The parties to a marriage, of a kind which may be dissolved under this Part, may give notice of their
intention to dissolve the marriage in the prescribed form to a designated public officer, signed by both parties to the
marriage and published or otherwise given in such manner as may be prescribed.

(2) A person who has given notice in accordance with subsection (1) may, by publication or otherwise as may
be prescribed, cancel such notice.

Section: 17 Parties may appear before designated public officer 30/06/1997


(1) Not less than one month after the giving of notice under section 16(1), the parties to the marriage may, if
neither of them has cancelled the notice under section 16(2), appear personally before the designated public officer to



Cap 178 - MARRIAGE REFORM ORDINANCE 5

whom notice was given for the purpose of satisfying him that each of them wishes voluntarily and freely to dissolve
his or her marriage to the other.

(2) If a designated public officer is satisfied that the parties appearing before him-
(a) have given notice of intention to dissolve their marriage under subsection (1) of section 16 and notice

of changed intention under subsection (2) of that section has not been given; and
(b) understand that the effect of dissolution is to put an end to the marriage so as to permit the parties to

marry again should either of them so wish; and
(c) freely and voluntarily desire to dissolve the marriage,

he shall sign the prescribed form in duplicate and deliver one copy to each of the parties.

Section: 18 Functions of designated public officer 30/06/1997


For the purposes of section 17, a designated public officer-
(a) shall interview each of the parties to a marriage appearing before him in the presence of each other and

also in the absence of each other, and no other person, except an interpreter (should one be necessary),
shall be present at any such interview;

(b) may require the parties or either of them to appear before him again on some specified occasion or
occasions;

(c) may require the parties or either of them to furnish such further information as he may reasonably
require.


Section: 19 Memorandum of dissolution of marriage 30/06/1997


(1) The parties to a marriage may, within one month of the delivery to them under section 17 of the prescribed
forms by a designated public officer, sign, in Hong Kong in the presence of each other and in the presence of 2 other
adult persons who shall also sign as attesting witnesses, an agreement or memorandum in writing for the dissolution of
the marriage unequivocally with effect from registration under section 20.

(2) An agreement or memorandum for the dissolution of a marriage, signed and witnessed in the manner
required by subsection (1), shall have the effect, as from registration under section 20 of dissolving the marriage.

Section: 20 Registration of memorandum for dissolution of marriage 30/06/1997


The parties to an agreement or memorandum for the dissolution of a marriage signed under and in accordance
with section 19 shall, within 14 days from the date of signature or such longer period as the designated public officer
before whom the parties appeared under section 17 may for special reasons in any particular case permit, register,
either personally or through their duly authorized agent, particulars of the agreement or memorandum for dissolution
of marriage with the designated public officer before whom the parties appeared under section 17; and that officer
shall endorse on the agreement or memorandum a record of registration under this section.

Section: 21 Register of dissolutions of marriage 30/06/1997


(1) The Director of Home Affairs shall maintain a register for the registration of dissolutions of marriage
effected under section 19.

(2) A designated public officer with whom a dissolution of marriage is registered under section 20 shall send to
the Director of Home Affairs once in each month, or more often if so directed by the Director of Home Affairs,
particulars of all such dissolutions registered by him and the Director of Home Affairs shall cause such particulars to
be entered in the register and preserved for record at his office.

(Amended L.N. 67 of 1985; L.N. 262 of 1989; L.N. 621 of 1994)

Section: 22 Chief Executive may designate public officers 34 of 1999 01/07/1997


Remarks:
Adaptation amendments retroactively made - see 34 of 1999 s. 3


The Chief Executive by notice in the Gazette may designate public officers for the purposes of this Part.



Cap 178 - MARRIAGE REFORM ORDINANCE 6

(Amended 34 of 1999 s. 3)

Part: VA VALIDATION OF DISSOLUTION IN HONG KONG OF

CERTAIN MARRIAGES CELEBRATED IN CHINA
30/06/1997





Section: 22A Validation of dissolution of certain Chinese marriages 30/06/1997


(1) This section applies to a marriage celebrated in China after 4 May 1931 but before 1 May 1950 under and in
accordance with the law of China in force when the marriage was celebrated.

(2) The purported dissolution in Hong Kong, at any time before 7 October 1971, of a marriage to which this
section applies by the mutual consent of the parties to the marriage signified by the signature of each of the parties, in
the presence of 2 other persons who have also signed as attesting witnesses, to an agreement or memorandum in
writing which sets forth unequivocally the final and complete dissolution of the marriage shall be valid for all
purposes and shall be deemed to have been so valid since the execution of the agreement or memorandum, if at the
date of the agreement or memorandum-

(a) both parties were domiciled in Hong Kong; or
(b) either of the parties had a substantial connection with Hong Kong.

(3) A child of both parties to a marriage to which this section applies shall, whether born before or after the
date of the agreement or memorandum referred to in subsection (2), be deemed to have been born legitimate for all
purposes.

(Added 70 of 1971 s. 2)

Part: VI MISCELLANEOUS 30/06/1997




Section: 23 Penalty for removing, etc. records 30/06/1997


Any person who wilfully removes, defaces, alters or destroys any notice, certificate, index, or other document
kept or filed by the Director of Home Affairs or the Registrar pursuant to or for the purposes of this Ordinance shall be
guilty of an offence and shall be liable to a fine at level 1 and to imprisonment for 6 months.

(Amended L.N. 67 of 1985; L.N. 262 of 1989; L.N. 621 of 1994; L.N. 25 of 1996)

Section: 24 Power to make regulations 34 of 1999 01/07/1997


Remarks:
Adaptation amendments retroactively made - see 34 of 1999 s. 3


The Chief Executive may make regulations for the better carrying out of the purposes and provisions of this
Ordinance and in particular may make regulations- (Amended 34 of 1999 s. 3)

(a) as to all matters of procedure under this Ordinance; and
(b) prescribing the forms to be used under this Ordinance.

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