21 August 2019
A young couple signs marriage registration forms at a civil affairs bureau. Couples should be given time to resolve their marital problems. Photo: Xinhua
A young couple signs marriage registration forms at a civil affairs bureau. Couples should be given time to resolve their marital problems. Photo: Xinhua

Xi’an divorce quota stirs debate

More than two years ago, Xi’an, the capital of northwestern China’s Shaanxi province with about 8.5 million people, promulgated a measure limiting the number of divorce registrations in the city to 15 per day.

The move is not so much to allow civil registration workers some breathing space from the sometimes overwhelming volume of divorce applications in the city as to give couples who want to end their marriage more time to think carefully about their decision, according to city officials.

Until now, local residents are still divided over the measure, with some opposing it as an unnecessary delay and curtailment of their right to end an unhappy union and others supporting it as a means to save marriage, protect the welfare of children and promote the unity of the family.

One of those who strongly support the measure is a 46-year-old resident surnamed Yu.

“I divorced my wife 10 years ago on impulse after we had a bitter quarrel, and both of us regretted after we got the divorce certificates,” Yu tells China Daily. “Two years later, we decided to remarry after thinking deeply about our situation and realizing that we still love each other.”

If the measure had been in effect when Yu and his wife had sought divorce, they might not have pushed through with their plan because the measure would have given them time to calm down and think, Yu said.

Zhao, another Xi’an resident, agrees that couples should be cautious about getting divorce because it is a very serious matter that would have a deep impact not only on the couples but their children and families as well.

However, He Rui, a lawyer with the Xi’an Guanzhi Law Firm, says the measure interferes with a couple’s personal decision, making it inconvenient for them to seek divorce.

Besides, if the intention is to give couples more time to think, a better way could be requiring them to attend a session or two with a marriage counsellor before proceeding with the divorce registration.

Lin Wenhui, director of the city’s marriage registry, says the measure is not meant to prevent couples from divorcing but “to save some couples who try to divorce in anger and on impulse”.

Official data from the city’s Chang’an district appears to support this assertion. In 2011, more than 1,900 couples registered for divorce in the district. But after the measure was implemented, the number of divorced couples fell to 1,760 in 2012, and went down further to 1,720 last year.

Or is this what the figures really suggest? We remember that at the peak of the property bubble a couple of years ago, there was a rush among Chinese couples in major cities to get a divorce to take advantage of a loophole that would allow them to sell their properties without having to pay a stiff tax on the profit.

Now that the property market is in a slump, divorces intended as a means to dip into the cash pool are also down.

In fact, that could be the reason why Xi’an came up with the measure in the first place: to discourage couple who want to divorce to be able to ride the property boom.

That’s just speculation, of course. Whether there’s a boom or a slump in the property market, the country’s divorce rate is on the way up. It rose almost 13 percent to 3.5 million couples last year, data from the Ministry of Civil Affairs showed.

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