Payne Clermont Velasco is a litigation law firm, established in Hong Kong, with a local and international client base. In this interview with Asia Law Portal, Jaerey Velasco, Partner at Payne Clermont Velasco, outlines her practice and explains how matrimonial and family law is unique in Hong Kong.
Payne Clermont Velasco is a litigation law firm, established in Hong Kong, with a local and international client base. What practice areas does the firm maintain?
We are a specialist litigation firm and the core areas of our practice are civil, commercial, criminal, family and matrimonial litigation, and in our years of experience, we have represented clients in many ‘high-conflict’ cases.
Greg Payne, our founding partner, focuses on civil and commercial litigation. In addition to more traditional civil and commercial disputes, Greg has assisted a growing number of client victims of cybercrime and email fraud to recover their stolen monies. He also has considerable experience in matrimonial litigation representing clients going through separation and divorce in the Hong Kong Family Court.
Adam Clermont concentrates in complex civil litigation and criminal defence.
As for me, I focus my practice on matrimonial and family law.
Your practice focuses on family law matters. What are some of the specific areas of legal work you undertake in this practice?
I practice both non-contentious and contentious legal work in family law.
For non-contentious matters, I handle Will and Estate Planning, Marital Agreements such as Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreement, and Deed of Separation. There are also instances when I represent clients in a non-contentious divorce proceedings and applications under the Guardianship of Minors Ordinance (for non-married couples).
As for the contentious matters, I advise and represent clients in their divorce proceedings and applications under the Guardianship of Minors Ordinance (for non-married couples) dealing mostly claims for custody, care and control, and access to the Children, claims for distribution of assets, and maintenance for spouse and children.
Your practice has been described as combining a resolute commitment to securing results in the client’s best long-term interests with a sensible and pragmatic approach. Describe this in more detail for our readers.
People undergoing family and matrimonial disputes are under a lot of stress: physical, emotional, and psychological. Because my clients are always at the core of what I do and I commit to always having their best interests first. In this field, it is so important to understand that when a client approaches me, they are also worried about their own emotions and the impact on others, particularly their children.
As a trained Collaborative Practitioner, I always keep in mind on how to assist my clients in a non-adversarial manner – as much as I can. I would recommend having mediation and settlement meetings in order to assist them to resolve any outstanding issues and matters without having to go to trial. In cases wherein a trial is inevitable, I ensure that my clients’ long-term interests are heard and protected.
What inspired you to focus on family law?
When I started developing my family law practice in the firm, I have encountered clients who are in dire situations. Being able to assist and get through the case with them in their the most stressful phase of their lives is truly a rewarding experience as I was able to help people through such a difficult time.
Seeing a client for the first meeting and helping them through the end of their divorce proceedings, you can see how much a person can develop through the hardship that they went through. You will see clients gain their independence and confidence after the proceedings and made them realised how they can rebuild their lives and have second chances in life.
What is unique about family law practice in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong is so diverse, with people coming to the city from all over the world to do business, work, and live. To me, I think the local culture and the integration of the international element is what makes family law practice in Hong Kong so unique.
When a family dispute arises, due to the unique diversity here, it will usually involve a multi-jurisdictional split of assets in various countries, and some involving off-shore trusts. There are some cases where we need to obtain expert evidence in other jurisdictions to ascertain the ownership of assets and how they can be split in order to assist the Courts in Hong Kong. If there are children involved, there will be a dispute on the upbringing of the children due to different culture, religion, and potential relocation of the family.
How do these international elements impact the resolution of matters?
When the parties submit to the jurisdiction of Hong Kong in their divorce proceedings, Hong Kong law applies, but the mechanics and logistics on how the assets get distributed will depend on where the assets actually are. For example, in the Philippines, foreigners are not allowed to own real property but even though the foreigner is not allowed to own real property, the Hong Kong Court still recognizes their beneficial ownership in the property and will be eligible for a split of the said property. Similarly, if there are pensions in the UK, then the pension will be split depending on the UK laws on pension split sharing.
With regard to children in these matters, when a party applies for a relocation of the children, the Court will take into account the cost of living at the destination location and weigh in the benefits for the Children’s best interests.
How is Payne Clermont Velasco helping to make family legal services cost effective for clients?
We work against the backdrop of providing excellent service to our clients that is also cost-effective. The court process can be emotionally and financially draining, so we thoroughly explain the financial impact it may have on them and guide them in making the right decision by also offering alternatives. And in cases where litigation becomes inevitable, we advise our clients on how and when to make commercially minded decisions.