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Family Law home > Practices > Family Law

Who can get divorced in China?

There are three main categories of married couples that can get divorced in China. Firstly, a Chinese citizen married to another Chinese citizen can get divorced in China, even if the couple do not live in China. Secondly, foreign citizens married to Chinese citizens may get divorced in China, even if the couple do not live in China. Lastly, a foreign citizen living in China more than one year married to another foreign citizen for at least one year may also get divorced in China.

Contentious and non-contentious divorce

In China, unlike many other jurisdictions, there are two very different ways to get divorced. Couples may divorce by agreement or by litigation.

Divorce by agreement

A divorce by agreement is permitted where both parties to the marriage desire a divorce. In an agreed divorce the parties are generally free to negotiate child support payments, visitation and property division. If an agreement can be reached and the necessary legal formalities are met then a divorce certificate will be issued by the local Chinese Marriage Registration Office. So long as agreement can be obtained, this process can often be completed very quickly. The rapid conclusion of a divorce by agreement can help avoid the emotional strains that a protracted legal dispute would entail. However, if an agreement is not reached by both parties on all the issues the divorce will need to be conducted through the courts.

Divorce by litigation

Where only one party wishes to dissolve the marriage, the divorce must be conducted through the courts. In this case child support, property division and visitation will all be determined through litigation or by court approved mediation.

A contentious divorce will be granted by the Chinese courts when at least one of following conditions is satisfied:

- where circumstances causing the alienation of mutual affection exist;

- where the parties have lived separately for over two years because of incompatibility;

- where one party has committed bigamy or has cohabited with a third party;

- where one party is guilty of domestic violence or has maltreated the other party;

- where one party has a long-term gambling or drug addiction;

- where one party is declared missing.

Foreign Nationals

Two foreign nationals can get a divorce in China, however it must be litigated and all of the following conditions must be met:

- the couple has been married for over one year;

- at least one of the parties has lived in China for over one year;

- both parties desire the divorce;

- both parties agree to divorce using the Chinese courts.

General Restrictions

There are also certain restrictions on when a husband may file for dissolution of marriage. Generally, a husband may not file for divorce within:

- one year after the birth of a child;

- six months following the termination or loss of a pregnancy.

However, these restrictions may not apply where the wife is in serious default.

 

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