- The new law in China requires a 30-day 'cooling off' period for couples before filing for divorce.
- Critics say the new law is a way to discourage divorce in a country that values "family harmony".
- Some couples are so desperate they've turned to scalpers to jump ahead in line for divorce lawyers.
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Chinese couples are rushing to file for divorce before a new law comes into effect that could make getting a divorce a much harder and lengthier process.
The new law, passed in May of last year but just now coming into effect, requires that couples take part in a 30-day "cooling off" period before filing for divorce. If either side of the couple decides to call off the divorce during that period, the aggrieved party must apply for divorce again and the 30-day clock starts anew.
Cheng Xiao, vice president and professor of Law School of Tsinghua University, said the law was meant to curb "impulsive" divorces.
"They may have quarreled about family affairs and they are divorcing in a fit of anger. After that, they may regret it. We need to prevent this kind of impulsive divorce," he told a Chengdu newspaper, the Guardian reported.
The move is seen by some as a way for China, a country that places "familial harmony" at the center of its culture, to discourage frustrated couples from splitting up. Chinese leadership was hoping the quarantine would lead to a baby boom, but according to experts, the country's population will soon hit a period of "negative growth."
Post-quarantine, many Chinese couples remain eager to escape each other, so much so that in some cases, the South China Morning Post reported, online scalpers are making money by selling appointment slots with divorce lawyers.
Divorce rates have been steadily increasing in China for the last fifteen years or so, ever since rules around the dissolution of marriages were somewhat relaxed. In 2003, around 1.3 million couples divorced, but by 2018, the number had climbed to 4.5 million, according to Bloomberg.
The cooling-off law is said to make exceptions in the case of domestic violence, according to SCMP, but lawyers who spoke to the outlet said that in reality, it will further complicate things for domestic violence victims.
"Men can decide whether they want to divorce or retract their application. If a woman wants to and the man doesn't, the woman will then have to sue, hiring a lawyer at great personal and financial cost. Many women – particularly full-time housewives – aren't in a position to do this," Zhong Wen, a divorce lawyer based in the Sichuan province, told the outlet.
China, he added, doesn't have a strong network of domestic violence shelters and resources, meaning that even if a woman does manage to get away from her abusive spouse she may have nowhere to go.
Dozens of US states also require waiting periods, with most states requiring between 30 and 60 days before filing. Ohio, New York, Wyoming, Virginia, Illinois, Hawaii, New Jersey, Minnesota, Alaska, and Maine do not require any waiting period at all, while Maryland requires a full year.