China's Divorce Numbers Were Rising. Then Came a New Rule

Divorces fell 70% after nation mandates 'cooling off' period of 30 days
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 19, 2021 12:41 PM CDT
China's New 'Cooling Off' Period Makes Dent in Divorces
Stock photo.   (Pexels/cottonbro from Pexels)

"Don't go to bed mad" has been standard (if not disputed) advice offered to married couples for ages. In China, the government doesn't care if you go to bed mad or not—but you can't call it quits until you've first lived through a "cooling off" period. The nationwide mandate introduced on Jan. 1 means that couples who submit a divorce application have to sit it out for 30 days, then reapply to finalize the process so long as one of the parties hasn't withdrawn the application within that time period. CNN reports it's a civil code that's apparently helping to keep couples together: According to the latest stats from the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs, there were nearly 1.1 million divorces in the country in the last quarter of 2020. In the first quarter of this year, however, there were just under 300,000 divorces—a 72% decline.

The first quarter of 2020 saw 612,000 divorces, meaning there was still a 52% drop year-over-year. Before the civil code was put into place, Chinese authorities had fretted over steadily rising divorce numbers. "The decline in the marriage rate will affect the birth rate, which in turn affects economic and social developments," a ministry official noted last year, per CNN. Critics contend the law restricts personal freedoms and can leave women trapped in abusive or unhappy relationships. Some young people say it will even keep them from marrying, per the Guardian. Two local governments have already pulled back plans to halt divorce registrations on China's version of Valentine's Day on Thursday after backlash against the idea, reports the South China Morning Post. Advocates, however, continue to say the overall measure will "[ensure] family stability and social order," per the China Daily. (More China stories.)

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