Chinese court introduces cooling-off period for would-be divorcees

Couples contemplating a permanent split now required to take three months to think it over

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 October, 2017, 5:54pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 October, 2017, 5:54pm

Clashing couples in an area of eastern China will now have to “cool off” for three months before they can legally call time on their union.

Court officials said husbands and wives were too readily seeking a final dissolution when they should be working through their disagreements, and have ordered would-be divorcees to take time out.

Anyone looking to annul their marriage in court in one part of Shandong province will need to become “calm” and “reasonable” before proceeding with a split, Xinhua reported.

Only those with a “just cause” may object to the new rule.

Although Chinese couples are still far more likely to stay married than their American counterparts, divorce rates in China have surged in recent years.

Marriage rate down, divorce rate up as more Chinese couples say ‘I don’t’ or ‘I won’t any more’

According to the country’s ministry of civil affairs, the number of couples who untied the knot in 2016 rose 8.3 per cent from the previous year to 4.2 million.

The trend is concerning for the ruling Communist Party, which views the traditional family unit as the bedrock of a stable society.

Men Hongke, an official from the People’s Court of Shizhong district said the measure was introduced because “judges frequently found that couples seeking divorce were not in a situation of irretrievable marriage breakdown”.

Many couples asked for an annulment impulsively or as a result of parental interference, Men said, blurring the lines between “marriage in crisis” and “marriage in ruins”.

At the end of the three-month cooling off period, couples can either file for divorce as planned or request that their term of contemplation be extended.

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Users on the Twitter-like Weibo platform ribbed the court for interfering in intimate affairs.

“I would rather recommend a ‘cooling off period’ before you’re allowed to receive a marriage licence,” one user said.

Others pointed out how the measure could hurt domestic abuse victims.

“Why should they regulate whether I get a divorce???” a person said. “If there’s domestic violence, I have to continue getting beaten for another three months?”