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Link between divorce, national exams tenuous

By He Dan and Cao Yin (China Daily)

08:26, June 25, 2012

Authorities are denying that the divorce rate in China increased quickly following the latest round of the annual national college entrance examinations, which ended on June 8.

At the same time, they concede that some couples did decide to wait until after their child had taken the possibly life-altering tests to take steps to end their marriages.

Chinese media recently reported that the divorce rates in cities such as Beijing and Nanjing increased quickly following the conclusion of the latest round of the national college entrance examinations. Many couples, they said, believe they had fulfilled their parental responsibilities by raising their children to the age when they would take the tests - usually 18 - thus making it an appropriate time to end their marriages.

Liu Lin, a Beijing-based lawyer from Shuang Li Law Firm, said on Tuesday that some parents have been known to postpone filing for a divorce until after the exams are finished, but said there is no confirmed connection between the tests and the country's divorce rate.

Earlier this year, a man surnamed Li in Beijing's Daxing district decided he wanted to end his marriage after he had found he had lost affection for his wife. But he decided to not file for a divorce until the end of June.

"The couple took into consideration the fact that their 19-year-old son was facing these life-changing exams," Liu said. "So they decided to give the young man some peace and quiet and to stop quarrelling."

In the past three years, people have filed for divorces in greater numbers in the days following the annual gaokao, or national college entrance exams, according to statistics from the Chaoyang district court.

The number of divorce cases heard by the court 20 days after the exam has been more than twice the number heard 20 days before it, the court said.

But a legal officer working for the court, who declined to provide her name, said the figures do not prove that people are intentionally waiting until after their children have taken the exams to get divorced.

"Although the figures are going up, the exam can't be taken as the main reason that parents have postponed their divorces," she said.

Numbers obtained from courts in the capital's southern districts showed no evidence that divorces are more common following the exams.

In 2010, 47 divorce cases were filed in the Daxing district court during the 20 days following the gaokao, 15 fewer than were in the 20 days preceding the test. And fewer such cases were filed that year than were during the 20 days leading up to the 2007 test.

Every quarter, civil affairs authorities release statistics about residents' divorce filings.

Li Jing, publicity official with the Beijing municipal civil affairs bureau, said the statistics do not provide strong evidence that people rush out to get divorced after their children finish taking the college entrance exam.

"People get divorced for so many different reasons," she said. "And, to protect privacy, we don't collect information about that."

Li Peng, a Tianjin lawyer specializing in marriage and family affairs, said the number of phone calls he received about divorces increased after the gaokao ended earlier this month.

"Every day, I've been getting 20 calls from people who want to end their marriages, almost double what I would get on an ordinary day," he said. "A majority of the people who call are in their 40s and 50s.

"Their questions are mainly about divisions of property rather than about custody issues.

"But I also noticed that these calls tend to come in more frequently on holidays and weekends, so I guess it's a bit rash to conclude that more people are getting divorced following the gaokao."

Chen Wei, a lawyer from the Yingke Law Firm in Beijing, said she has rarely ever worked on divorce cases filed by couples whose children are about to attend a university.

"I've seen only one or two of those sorts of cases in my career," she said.


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