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Home sweet home? Not if you divorce

(Global Times)

09:22, August 26, 2011

The Supreme People's Court's new judicial interpretation of the Marriage Law clarifies the ownership of property and has sparked heated debate.

According to the new explanation, houses and other marital assets belong to the initial owner, of which the other party may receive nothing after a divorce.

The new explanation is quite jarring for some people, especially those planning to get married. This new rule drives young people to consider potential property arguments once they get divorced even before their wedding day. Many newly founded families are also forced to think about possible separation of property, which conflicts with traditional Chinese views of family and marriage.

The new interpretation may be due to the direction of social development. Nevertheless, as China lingers between tradition and modernization, morality and laws, releasing such new rules should be done very cautiously.

Some believe it worthwhile to clarify property ownership before marriage, so as to avoid property disputes after divorce. This is only somewhat accurate. Those who seek a divorce must psychologically prepare for property disputes, whereas such disputes before marriage may only sow doubts and insecurity. Maybe after a few generations, spouses could easily accept clear demarcation of property. But is it really necessary to twist Chinese culture in this way?

Some hold that the new explanation brings marriage back to pure love, as it flusters those who seek only to acquire wealth through marriage. Nevertheless, it is natural that some people want to improve their lives via marriage. China witnesses many examples of social injustice, and marriage serves as a way to redistribute resources and reduce this.

The new rule surely has its advantages. But some restrictive conditions should be added in, to bring it in line with the current social reality.

For instance, the new rule should not apply to couples married for more than 10 or 15 years. The new explanation should consider not only the property ownership of spouses, but also the social values of marriage. It should be more balanced.

It is said that the legal industry has applauded the new explanation, as it provides a clear-cut standard, and minimizes troubles in divorce cases. Nevertheless, the quality of a law relies more on public happiness, rather than judicial convenience.

Marriage can be fragile. Spouses can pass a crisis with gusto, and may have bigger troubles under greater pressure. Many young lovers now worry about putting their names on legal papers concerning property before marriage, and see this as a major test for their relationship. But why don't they use their entire lives to undergo the test, rather than make all kinds of calculations before marriage?

The Supreme Court should listen to the public and estimate the social effect of the new ruling. The Marriage Act should protect marriage, rather than safeguard all its accessories.


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