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More Couples in Shanghai Go Separate Ways

Divorce rates in Shanghai soared 30 percent year-on-year between January and September to more than 20,000, according to the Marriage Administration Office of the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau.

The rising divorce rate is believed by many to be connected with the city's new marriage registration policy, which makes divorce "fast and easy."

Zhou Jixiang, chief of the Marriage Administration Office, however, dismissed the idea that the new policy is to blame for the surge in divorce proceedings.” Many divorcing couples come to us unyielding in their determination to go their separate ways. They would divorce anyway under the old system which took a month," he said.

Under the new policy, if divorce is desired by both parties and if appropriate arrangements have been made for the care of any children and the allocation of property, divorce certificates can be issued for 10 yuan (US$1.2) then and there at a district marriage registration office.

District offices sent out pamphlets earlier this month, asking couples intent on divorce to calm down and think about what they were doing before signing on any dotted lines.

Before the new policy took effect on October 1, 2003, divorcing couples were required to obtain certification letters from their work places and household communities. Now all that is required is the presentation of identity cards and household registration books.

Marriages lasting a few weeks or months are no longer uncommon in Shanghai, according to the Marriage Administration Office.

The shortest-lived marriage recorded lasted for a day. A young couple demanded a divorce the very afternoon they registered for marriage.

The most-cited reasons for divorce are incompatible personalities and long-term separation.

Zhou revealed that starting in November, all district marriage registration offices in Shanghai would dispatch a notification letter to couples intending to divorce.

The letter aims to bring the public up to speed on the country's marriage laws by spelling out what needs to be done when filing for divorce and the rights and responsibilities of both parties.

For every 1,000 couples in Shanghai, there are five divorces, according to official statistics.

Although the rate is till lower than that of Western countries, it is at least 20 times greater than two decades ago and ranks Shanghai top in China's divorce statistics.

(China Daily November 4, 2004)

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