- Li An is living happily with his wife again, one year after they
applied for divorce following endless quarrels such as who should change
Last year, Li, 28, became dad, but arrival of the baby brought with it
many problems, and the couple found themselves always fighting over
At a civil affairs bureau in Dali Bai autonomous prefecture in
Southwest China’s Yunnan province, a member of staff would not, as they
expected, grant them a divorce, but simply handed them a reservation
form and told them to come back the next week if they still wanted to go
"The seven days are a grace period," said Wang Zhaowei, head of Dali
civil affairs bureau. "Many couples, especially the young, rush
irrationally into decisions. They will probably change their mind after
they calm down."
The divorce rate is rising rapidly. In 2014, 3.6 million Chinese
couples broke up, almost double the number from a decade previously. In
the past, couples required permission from employers or community
committees to divorce, and many put up with their spouses just to avoid
A 2003 regulation on marriage and divorce simplified the divorce
procedure and allowed couples to divorce the same day at a cost of 10
yuan (1.53 dollars).
Reservations and appointments began in Dali on Feb 1, 2015. By the end
of last year, 9,571 couples made reservations, but 4,531 of them, 47
percent, did not end up in divorce. In many other cities, similar
reservation systems are in place.
These measures are not without their critics. "It is not proper for
governments to put obstacles in front of people wanting a divorce,
because Chinese citizens enjoy freedom of marriage," said Nie Aiping of
Jiangxi Academy of Social Sciences. He suggests that interventions
should be conducted by an impartial organization.
Liu Min in East China’s Anhui province has been a divorce attorney for
years. She believes that not all broken marriages can be repaired,
because the causes of divorce vary.
"In the past people wanted to divorce mostly because of domestic
violence and affairs, now it is increasingly common among young couples
to separate after trivial disputes or interference of their parents,"
Most people born in the 1980s and 1990s are only children whose
parents tend to interfere too much in their lives, Liu said. What’s
more, unlike their parents, they attach more importance to individuality
and the quality of life.
For the couples careering into divorce without careful forethought,
marriage guidance offices have been set up next to registry offices in
Beijing, Chongqing, Shanghai and other provinces. Psychologists are
The registrars who handle dissolutions in Anhui province have been
trained to tell whether a marriage can be saved or not, according to
their statement and emotional state, according to Gao Jiamei of Anhui
Provincial Civil Affairs Department.
A local government in the provincial capital Hefei has invited
professional counselors to work alongside registrars. They help couples
calm down and think over their relations, establishing a sense of
responsibility leading to a rational choice.
"Most couples eager to get divorced choose to postpone their decision
after consulting," said Wang Wenjing, secretary-general of Hefei
marriage counselors’ association.
But marriage is, after all, deeply personal. To divorce or not, the
choice finally lies with the couple themselves.
Yang Jing, a native of Wuhu city in Anhui, has been married for five
years and has a three-year-old son. She insisted on divorce because she
did not have a say in her own family life -- her husband’s parents lived
with them and decided everything for them. She talked with her husband
several times, to no avail.
"Others may see me as crazy for divorcing a husband who has made no
big mistakes," she said. "But I don’t want to make do with marriage like
this for the rest of my life."