Marcus Dearle

Partner, Global Head of Family Asset Protection, Private Client

Marcus leads the firm's international Family Asset Protection team across Asia and Europe.

As one of Asia’s leading Private Client and Family lawyers, he advises High Net Worth (HNW) and Ultra High Net Worth (UHNW) individuals, families and trustees on all aspects of relationship breakdown.

Find out about Marcus's landmark cases >

This expert advice includes advice on asset protection, complex international trusts and corporate structures, the commercial interests of private capital, multi-jurisdictional pre and post-nuptial agreements and cross-border matrimonial litigation. Marcus also advises on children dispute issues and has international, cutting-edge expertise in child surrogacy law.

Top International Family Lawyer

Marcus has been listed as one of the top specialist trusts and private client lawyers in the world in Legal Week’s Private Client Global Elite 2019. 

Chambers Asia Pacific 2016 praised him for being "patient and meticulous," with one client commenting: "Really, I would recommend him to any friend who needs a family lawyer." 

Chambers and Partners 2017 stated that, "when he (Marcus) speaks, you listen because he invariably gets the case spot on." Spears Asia Magazine named Marcus as one of the “top 10” family lawyers in Hong Kong in 2015.

He has 30 years’ experience in family law and wealth planning, and is qualified in Hong Kong, England & Wales and the BVI.

Active Industry Participant

He regularly speaks at conferences and contributes to a number of broadsheet newspapers, textbooks, magazines and journals - including speaking on asset preservation, divorce and trusts at the industry leading STEP Asia Conferences in 2015, 2017 and 2019 – “a great speaker who can engage immediately with his audience”.  He is on the Consultant Editorial Board of Lexis Practical Guidance in Hong Kong.

Marcus is Vice Chair of the International Bar Association Family Law Committee and Fellow of the International Academy of Family Lawyers (IAFL); IAFL is a worldwide association of practising lawyers who are recognised by their peers as the most experienced and skilled family law specialists in their respective countries.

He has acted in a number of high-profile and ground-breaking international family law cases and spearheaded initiatives advancing family law in Hong Kong, including:

1. Securing the highest ever litigated divorce award in Hong Kong’s history

Led the international team representing Florence Tsang, initially in the High Court in London and then in the High Court in Hong Kong. This landmark divorce case led to the highest ever litigated divorce award in Hong Kong’s history, involving assets of approximately US$1 billion. The case eventually went to the Hong Kong’s supreme court, the Court of Final Appeal.

The Florence Tsang case has been the main catalyst for the heightened interest in Hong Kong and Asia of the need for responsible asset preservation planning: most of the 6 week High Court trial was heard in public.

2. Enforcing a cross border Pre-Nuptial Agreement 

Representing a husband from New Jersey, USA, in a leading Hong Kong forum shopping case of LCYP v JEK, involving questions over the enforceability and validity of a New Jersey Pre-Nuptial Agreement in Hong Kong. There are 3 reported judgments in the case to date: Court of Appeal - LCYP v JEK (Children: Habitual Residence) [2015] 4 HKLRD 798: High Court - JEK v LCYP [2015] HKEC 923: District Court - (Maintenance Pending Suit) – LCYP v JEK [2016] HKEC 2033. High Court final order LCYP v JEK [2019] HKCFI 1588 has led to the provision of detailed guidance on the treatment of foreign and domestically drafted Pre-Nuptial Agreements in the Hong Kong court.

3. Protecting a HK $1.56 billion trust 

Led the team representing HSBC Trustee International Limited up to the Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong in a ground breaking divorce and trusts case of Kan Lai Kwan v Poon Lok To Otto. The case centred on a Jersey trust worth HK$1.56 billion and attracted significant international coverage, including in the Financial Times.

4. Bringing Family Law Adjudication (Arbitration) to Hong Kong

Played a key (including lobbying) role in bringing family law adjudication (AKA arbitration) to Hong Kong, culminating in the recent Practice Direction. Marcus is also is a member of the steering committee.

5. Clearing up confusion over litigation funding

Represented a wife in 2014 and 2015 in a significant case in Hong Kong, which determined that the court in Hong Kong should not impose an order that an agreement to pay litigation funding for legal costs should be offset against the final award: AB v MAW [2016] 2 HKLRD 1. Until this judgment, there was confusion in Hong Kong about the interpretation of the Court of Appeal decision in HJFG v KCY [2012] in its dealing with the Maintenance Pending Suit order in the English case of Charman v Charman [unrep.,Eng HC (Fam), 11 February 2005].

6. International Expertise in Child Surrogacy Law

One of the first in the world to call for international surrogacy regulation in 2002, after acting in one of the first high profile international cases in which the relationship between a surrogate mother and the commissioning couple broke down. In this case, it broke down due to disputes over “selective reduction” (abortion) of foetuses between the British surrogate mother and the Californian commissioning couple. Marcus acted for the surrogate mother. See W v H (Child Abduction: Surrogacy) (No 1) [2002] 1 FLR 1008 and W v H (Child Abduction: Surrogacy) (No 2) [2002] 2 FLR 252.

Marcus Dearle
  • Marcus Dearle
  • Partner, Global Head of Family Asset Protection, Private Client

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