Lawmaker, political advisor urge "cooling off" days for prospective divorcees

16:30, March 12, 2010      

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Soaring divorce rates have prompted Chinese lawmakers and political advisors to propose a mandatory "cooling off" period to allow troubled couples to save their marriages.

"An increasing number of young couples choose divorce on impulse," Hei Xinwen, a deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, said at the NPC's ongoing annual session in Beijing.

Hei blamed "too simple procedures" for the high divorce rate.

"Some couples, especially those born in the 1980s, divorce rashly over trifles like who should do the housework," Hei said. "This is not necessary."

According to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, 1.71 million Chinese couples divorced last year, an increase of 10.3 percent year on year.

In big cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Chongqing, the divorce rate is much higher than the national average. In Beijing alone, 30,000 couples divorced last year, a five-fold rise from the figure in 2001. Marriage registrations doubled to 181,000 in the same period in the city.

Hei proposed amending the Marriage Registration Regulations, which took effect in October 2003, to make divorce more difficult and to deter impulse divorces.

In previous decades, China's government marriage offices required couples to show letters provided by their work units or employers to prove they were eligible for marriage or divorce.

Before 2003, a couple had to wait a month for mediation through civil affairs departments before getting divorced.

Shang Shaohua, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee, described a "worrisome phenomenon" of whirlwind marriages followed by whirlwind divorces.

"Marital instability has been on the rise, particularly among couples born into one-child families in the 1980s," Shang said.

Studies by Hei and Shang show many couples born in the 1980s were unprepared for married life and usually had little tolerance of each other, resulting in arguments when living together.

Shang said marriage counselling and other remedies should be introduced to play a similar role to the mediation once enforced by work units.

"The legislatures in our country should amend procedures for divorce and introduce a cooling off period lasting three to six months after a couple files for divorce," Shang said.

Hei proposed to amend the marriage registration rules to restore the requirement of a mediation letter from work units or community committees before a couple files for divorce.

Under the present law, couples receive divorce certificates immediately if they both agree to a divorce and settle amicably property, debt and child custody issues.

Marriage requires a couple only provide their ID cards and residence documents, and sign a statement to say they are single and not related.

Source:Xinhua
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