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Divorce boom follows gaokao among parents sensitive to kids' exam stress

By Yan Shuang (Global Times)

08:53, June 18, 2012

Parents wait outside a school in Beijing on June 7, the first day of the gaokao. Photo: Guo Yingguang/GT

For high school students in China, the pressure of taking the gaokao, or national college entrance exams, can be difficult enough to manage by itself. But for Wang Li (pseudonym), tackling the test was another struggle to cope with amid her own personal turmoil from her parents' planned separation. While she was frantically preparing for the exam four months ago, she learnt her parents were planning to divorce.

Statistics from courts confirmed a post-gaokao divorce boom last week following the exam's conclusion on June 8. Many parents facing irreconcilable differences agree to delay their divorce until after their child has taken the all-important exam in the hope that their breakup won't affect their child's gaokao performance.

The Chaoyang district court in Beijing has seen a spike in divorces after the exam each year from 2008 to 2011, with the annulment frenzy usually lasting until August.

Last year the number of divorces filed 20 days after the exam was more than twice as high as the figure for 20 days before it, according to the Chaoyang district court. Elsewhere at southern Beijing's Daxing district court the figure is even higher, with 145 divorces filed 20 days after the gaokao last year compared to 38 filed 20 days before.

School's out, divorce is in

Wang, a 17-year-old high school graduate from Southwest China's Chongqing municipality, was a model student who regularly topped her class in many subjects. However, all that changed in February, when she overheard her parents discussing their divorce after the gaokao, spiraling Wang into depression.

Her grades soon plunged and she even threatened to her parents that she would drop out of school if they went ahead with their divorce, the Chong-qing Morning Post reported earlier this month.

The Chongqing Morning Post reported that Wang's parents settled their differences and agreed not to separate after undergoing marriage counseling, resulting in the improvement of Wang's studies.

But not all couples are able to rescue their marriage from the rocks, with divorces often inflicting long-term mental anguish on children already struggling to cope with the pressure of the gaokao.

The Beijing civil affairs bureau told the Global Times it did not have figures for the number of divorces made citywide after the gaokao this year. However the Legal Mirror reported that an employee from the Haidian district marriage registration office said an average of 20 couples daily had filed for divorce after the exam, with more than half aged in their 40s.

"We used to get mostly young couples filing for divorce, but lately there have been more middle-aged ones," the employee, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Legal Mirror. "They often go through it quickly without fighting like young couples. It seems they have agreed to separate long before."

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