What happened after China implemented the mandatory “30 days cooling-off period” divorce law?
On January 1st, 2021, China officially implemented the law of a “30 days cooling-off period” when couples apply to get a divorce. This law stipulates that within 30 days of applying for divorce if either party is not willing to divorce anymore, they can apply for withdrawal of the divorce registration. Within one month after the expiration of 30 days, if both parties do not apply for the divorce certificate together again, the application for divorce will be deemed to be withdrawn as well.
From 2015 to 2019, the marriage rate in China drastically reduced from 9% to 6.6%. On the other hand, the divorce rate raised from 2.8% to 3.4%, in 2002 it was only 0.9%. These numbers led the government to create new laws.
There were a lot of discontents after the government proposed this law. Thousands of people expressed their anger and apprehension on social media. “We can’t even divorce freely”, “They should also set up a ‘cooling-off period’ when people get married”, “whether the cooling-off period is conducive to protecting the victims from domestic violence?” were some of the frequent comments.
However, the controversy didn’t stop the law from being enforced，it was passed by the National People’s Congress in 2020, and was implemented from the first day of 2021. The government later amended the Act. Making the “cooling-off period” applicable only to consensual divorce.
The result after China implemented this law
- In Suzhou province, from January 1st to April 15th, a total of 72,106 couples applied for divorce, from which 548 withdrew their applications during the cooling-off period, and 9,755 couples didn’t apply for a divorce certificate within 30 days after the expiration of the period, so their applications were deemed to have been withdrawn.
- In Hangzhou city, from January 1st to April 2nd a total of 2186 couples applied for divorce, 16 of them voluntarily withdrew their applications, 816 of them didn’t finish the application after a cooling-off period.
- In XiXia city, from January 1st to March 31st, there are a total of 111 couples who applied for divorce, only 1 couple withdrew their application voluntarily, 59 couples finished the full process, 51 couples didn’t show up after the cooling-off period.
Overall the divorce rate in China did drop about 60% percent in the first quarter, compared to last year. But only about 1% of couples actually canceled the divorce process after the cooling off period.
Critics argue that the law was meant to curb “impulsive” divorces, but it will complicate the process of domestic violence victims running away from a toxic marriage. Either party can decide to retract their application, if a wife wants to divorce but her husband doesn’t, she has to sue and hire a lawyer, which will increase the difficulty, especially for the housewife in a rural place, who is illiterate and not financially independent.
China is not the only country implementing this “cooling-off” period policy, South Korea, the UK, and dozens of American states also require this waiting period, usually, within 15 to 60 days, some places require 6 months to 1 year before they can actually get a divorce.
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