When is your spouse’s birthday? Chinese authorities set couples a test before granting divorce

Initiative in eastern province aimed at halting the rising divorce rates and falling marriage rates, with mixed reactions

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 May, 2018, 2:54pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 June, 2018, 1:10pm

Couples are being asked to sit a test before being granted a divorce by local authorities in eastern China, in an attempt to address rising divorce rates, reports say.

The marriage registration office of the civil affairs bureau in Lianyungang city, Jiangsu province, has created a questionnaire for couples who want to divorce, reported China News Service on Tuesday. Introduced last week, couples must complete it before social workers can assess how salvageable their marriage is and how to intervene.

Divorce rates in China are rising, while marriage rates are declining. Previously, such intervention was sought privately by the couples involved.

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Figures from the Ministry of Civil Affairs show the number of separations per 1,000 people doubled between 2006 and 2016, from 1.46 to 3. A total of 4.2 million couples divorced in 2016, which was a 8.3 per cent rise from the year before.

The number of people getting married in 2016 was 11.4 million, a 6.7 per cent fall from the previous year.

“This is just an innovative method of marriage mediation,” Liu Chunling, the head of the registration office, was quoted as saying, emphasising that it was voluntary.

“Through this questionnaire, we can understand the problems in a marriage and give staff a foundation for their mediation.”

A picture of the questionnaire shared on the bureau’s official page on Weibo, China’s Twitter, shows three parts totalling 100 available points.

In the first section, couples must answer 10 questions, including asking each of them to name the dates of their wedding and their spouse’s birthday.

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The second consists of four longer questions such as “What is the biggest conflict in your marriage?” and the third is an essay about the couple’s thoughts on their marriage and plans for after divorce.

Couples who score above 60 points may be able to save their marriage, the bureau said in a separate Weibo post, while those below that mark are likely to break up.

For the first couple who took the test, only the woman agreed to participate, reported China News Service, scoring 100. The man refused, scoring 0. According to Chinese news site The Observer, a social worker believed the woman still had deep feelings and advised the couple against separation.

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“The main purpose is to let the two parties think rationally and take love, marriage and family seriously,” the bureau posted.

Despite the voluntary nature of the scheme, some people have expressed outrage, saying it goes against personal freedoms. According to Liu, many couples have refused to take part.

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Although some have said the bureau is trying its best to help marriages survive, according to China News Service, others have said “the law clearly defines freedom of marriage and people shouldn’t be formally restricted”, it stated.

Underneath one of the bureau’s Weibo posts, one user wrote that it was good to have a “buffer zone” between marriage and divorce, but another wrote that the authorities “don’t want people’s brains to think about the problems”.