Couples seeking divorce given some breathing space
Subject to change
A marital consultancy service center is set up in Hefei, Anhui province, in January. WANG JUN/FOR CHINA DAILY
Shen Xu, from Brighten Youth Up, a research institute in Shaanxi province for children's education and development, said some couples successfully divorce after 30 days. However, other applicants become anxious, being held back by partners who change their mind or even deliberately delay a divorce.
"Put simply, the cooling-off period is making divorce more open to doubt and subject to change," she said.
Shen used a couple she met after the policy was introduced as an example.
"We found that the woman had tried to ask her husband for extra money or to obtain a bigger percentage of mutual property in exchange for agreeing to divorce and allowing him custody of their child," Shen said.
Such additional requests during the cooling-off period increase the uncertainty of divorce, which might further affect the couple and their child, she added.
Chen Meigui, a social worker from Sanming, Fujian province, who conducts family-related surveys and mediates in domestic disputes, said she is also concerned about the policy, adding that questions relating to it need to be answered as soon as possible.
"First, it's vital to determine the exact relationship between the couple during this period," she said.
"Second, if one party finds that the other has borrowed a large sum of money during the 30 days, the action that can be taken needs to be clarified, along with whether the loan is a joint property."
Chen said there is a need to prevent people taking advantage of the cooling-off period to inflict additional worries on their partner.
"For instance, the conditions under which couples who apply for divorce can be granted an immediate separation should be listed promptly," she added.
Shen, from Brighten Youth Up, said although some couples drop divorce proceedings during the cooling-off period, or do not visit civil affairs departments until their applications have became invalid, this does not mean problematic marital relationships have been resolved.
She said more attention needs to be paid to marriage counseling nationwide, not just in the 30-day period, but also during or even before a marriage.
"Only when couples determine the reasons for their unhappiness and work out how to get along with each other, will they have a better marital relationship," she added.
When Hu, the Chengdu lawyer, speaks to couples seeking a divorce or experiencing a crisis in their marriage, she first tries to get both parties to calm down and voice their true feelings about the relationship.
"People can become 'lost' in a marriage or find it hard to see clearly what the real problem is when they're too emotional," she said. "After listening to the views of both sides, I determine whether the marriage is suffering or already over, providing both psychological and legal help."
Guo, from the Lyu Yuan institution, said, "Providing mediation and mentoring is necessary to ensure family stability and social order."
China should step up efforts to promote such services and ensure they are fully available in communities, Guo added.