According to The Economist Magazine, divorce rates are rising quickly across China.  Previously, China was for centuries a place where marriage was universal and mostly permanent (though convention permitted men to take concubines).1

The trend reflects profound economic and social change.  In the past 35 years, China has experienced the biggest internal migration by any country in human history.  In 2014, the latest year for which such data exists, about 3.6 million couples split up in China, more than double the number a decade earlier.

Part of the problem is caused by the huge movements of people.  Many migrants marry in their home villages and often live apart from their spouses for lengthy periods.  This has contributed to a big increase in extramarital liaisons.  Couples’ aging relatives are part of the problem also.  As a result of China’s one child per couple policy (recently changed to a two child one), many people have no siblings to share the burden of looking after parents and grandparents.  Yan Yunxiang of the University of California, Los Angeles, says “parent-driven divorce” is becoming more common.

China’s Supreme Court has made some interesting law on divorce.  It ruled that in contested cases, the property would be considered that of one partner alone if that partner’s parents had bought it for him or her after the couple got married.  In addition, if one partner (rather than his or her parents) had bought a home before the couple wed, the person could be awarded sole ownership by a divorce court.  This ruling has put women at a disadvantage as they are less often named on deeds.

by Patrick Gaffney

by Patrick Gaffney

1 “Divorce: a love story.”  The Economist.  January 23rd 2016.