Divorce Litigation

China's once strong tradition of marriage has been on the rocks for some time now, with divorce rates increasing every year since 2002, and reaching 2.3 million in 2008. Where once divorce was extraordinarily rare and required an employer's permission, now there are quickie divorces available for a small fee. Such a sudden and drastic break from the marriage bonds has been attributed to countless factors: most commentators bring up increased economic prosperity, greater access to privacy and even the little emperor syndrome. There's been a steadily rising divorce rate in China both amongst expats married to Chinese nationals as well as Chinese to Chinese, this according to Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau. Recently there was a drop in divorce rates which was attributed to the recession.

Divorce is, generally, a simple process in China if both parties agree to the divorce and there are no children involved. Two Chinese people can walk into the marriage registration office with their marriage books and their hukous and be divorced the same day. In Beijing, the procedure for foreigners to divorce their Chinese spouses is much the same as the procedure for marriage. According to the Beijing Government website, to get a divorce you should go to the Division of Foreign-Related Marriage Registration at the Beijing Civil Affairs Bureau and file for divorce. If you’re not in Beijing you go to the local Civil Affairs Bureau. You bring your marriage certificates, a divorce agreement signed by both parties, your spouse’s hukou book and ID, and your passport. There may also be a nominal fee.

Of course, it sounds very easy on paper, but in China procedures are rarely as easy as they seem. Your best bet is that you first contact the office where you registered your marriage in the first place and ask directly. Because often procedures vary from province to province in China, it is best to always ask for clarification before making a trip downtown only to discover you’re missing this or that (or showing up at the wrong place altogether).

The tricky part of divorcing in China comes when the divorce is against the will of either spouse. Chinese divorce law will require mediation in these cases, and only if the mediation fails will the divorce be granted. Divorce is also automatically granted in cases of abuse, drug use, gambling, and desertion.

Divorce for expat can be very different than for Chinese in China. You may not be sure whether or not a Chinese attorney is appropriate in your case. Some expats are concerned that hiring a Chinese attorney will make the divorce messier or more hostile especially China is not the expat’s motherland. You also may not be sure whether or not the Chinese court has jurisdiction.

When Is the Best Time to Hire a Chinese Attorney?

If you are facing divorce, there are many good reasons to hire a Chinese attorney as early as possible, including:

1. Protection of your property rights;

2. Protection of your custodial rights if there are children involved in your marriage;

3. An attorney can help limit the emotional side of divorce, making it more about the business of dividing assets and coming to an agreement about child custody (if applicable);

4. An attorney will understand the divorce law and divorce practice in China and be able to tell you what your rights and responsibilities are;

5. You won't have to handle the paperwork or filing procedures; An attorney will do this for you; and

6. If your marriage was not registered in China, you may not be sure whether or not the Chinese court will have jurisdiction over your divorce, an attorney will give you advice how to start the action or mediation.

The downside of hiring a Chinese attorney is generally the cost. However, if you have considerable income or assets at stake, or even more importantly, if you wish to protect your parental rights, the cost is well worth it especially the attorney speaks your language.

If Your Ex Hires a Chinese Attorney

If your ex hires an attorney, it is wise to also hire an attorney. You should not work with your Ex's attorney without assistance of your own counsel because your Ex’s attorney will be acting on her /his behalf and in her/his best interest, not yours.

If You Have Children

Child custody is complicated and you likely want to protect your rights as a parent. An attorney can help you by coming up with a strategy that best suits your wishes as a parent. There may be child support and spousal support issues the attorney can help you work out as well depending on incomes of the parties and the length of the marriage. Different city in China has a different level of child support in practice. Although there are some provisions or legal interpretation regulating the child support, the practice is totally different. So your attorney will limit your child support and also protect your children rights or interests.

Collaborative Divorce

Not all divorces are messy court battles. You can seek out an attorney whose practice is focused on collaborative divorce. This means that the parties agree to an out of court divorce. It is similar to mediation in that it aims to find an agreement that will work for and satisfy both parties. This can be a less stressful way to get a divorce.

Getting the Advice of a Chinese Attorney

An experience divorce attorney can help you come to an arrangement in your divorce that focuses on what is most important to you. By using an attorney, you can minimize much of the emotional charge that surrounds divorce. An attorney will have your best interests at heart and will advise you of your options while listening to your needs.

Client Testimonial

One of the best China lawyers based in Shenzhen! I appreciated this Shenzhen lawyer's service because they helped me achieved my goals, though it was a tough mission. They are English speaking lawyers, so there are absolutely no communication barrier you likely encounter elsewhere. What impressed me is these Shenzhen lawyer's quick response and professional service, two characteristics which I treasure most. Although the Shenzhen lawyers are based in south China, they represent clients across the country, so you can also call them China lawyer! - Johnson

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