China Claims ‘Cooling Off’ Period Cut Wuhan Divorce Rate by over Half

A couple poses during a wedding photo shoot by wedding photographer Zhang (not pictured), next to Yangtze River in Wuhan, in China's central Hubei province on May 16, 2020. - Authorities in the pandemic ground zero of Wuhan have ordered mass COVID-19 testing for all 11 million residents after a …
HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images

Nearly 60 percent of couples in China’s central city of Wuhan called off their planned divorces after being forced to rethink their separations during a new, state-mandated “cooling off” period, the Chinese state-run Global Times claimed on Thursday.

China introduced a mandatory “60-day cooling-off period” in January for couples considering divorce. The law, part of China’s first-ever “civil code” legislation, requires couples to wait two months before they are allowed to proceed with their divorce filing. “With a total number of 60 days before issuing the divorce certificate, it contains a 30-day cooling-off period, and another 30-day limit that allows the couple to get their certificate from the local civil affairs bureau,” the Global Times, a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) newspaper, noted on Thursday. According to the new law, China’s divorce application process now requires couples to undergo “marriage and family counseling” during the cooling-off period.

Since the new policy was introduced, “around 58 percent of couples decided not to split up at the end of a 60-day cooling-off period,” according to a report published by Wuhan’s civil affairs bureau on March 16. Of 3,096 couples that registered for divorce in Wuhan in January, “1,309 were issued with a certificate for divorce as of March 5,” the report claimed.

The Wuhan civil affairs bureau surveyed 1,150 local residents as part of the report and found that the city’s “three killers” of marriage were “personality differences, trivial life problems and lack of communication.”

China’s divorce rate has surged over the past few decades. The country recorded 580,000 divorces in 1987 and 3.73 million in 2020. China’s marriage rate has inversely plummeted in recent years, the number of unions dropping from 13.47 million in 2013 to 8.13 million in 2020, according to a report by China’s Tsinghua University.

In response to the troubling marriage statistics, a Chinese legislator proposed this month that the Chinese state encourage couples to undergo premarital training before tying the knot to improve their chances of staying together. Chen Aizhu, a deputy of China’s National People’s Congress, the CCP’S rubber-stamp legislature, suggested that Chinese marriage and family associations organize the premarital training for young couples.

“Carrying out premarital trainings is to help to improve people’s sense of responsibility to the family, encouraging the new couples to be loyal in marriage and cherish their family,” Chen, who hails from East China’s Zhejiang Province, told state media on March 3.

“As people’s attitude toward marriage are getting more open now, some young people get married in haste without a solid base in their love relationship, and then divorce in haste over trivial disputes,” Chen said.

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