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Where only one spouse wants to end the marriage, the divorce must be conducted through the courts. Assuming there is no prior agreement, the court will decide how to settle all outstanding issues including child support, visitation rights, property division and support payments. One interesting feature of Chinese litigated divorces is the focus placed by the courts on trying to secure a negotiated settlement.

Generally speaking, the judge will, at multiple points throughout the litigation process, ask the spouses if a settlement seems like a reasonable possibility and, if so, if they would like to switch to court-approved mediation to try and resolve their differences. Of course, if the relationship is particularly acrimonious, or if mediation fails to deliver a compromise, the court once again takes over the case and issues a final judgement.

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

– where circumstances causing the alienation of mutual affection exist (so-called “loss of affection”);

– where the spouses have lived separately for over two (2) years because of incompatibility;

– where a spouse has committed bigamy or has cohabited with a third party;

– where a spouse is has committed acts of domestic violence or has otherwise maltreated his/her spouse;

– where a spouse has a long-term gambling or drug addiction;

– where a spouse is declared missing.

As in every country, a litigated divorce is significantly more complex than a consensual one. It will take longer and cost more to handle than a consensual divorce. Generally speaking, no matter how hopeless the differences may seem, it is almost always a good idea to try and end the marriage through a negotiated divorce settlement. Your Chinese lawyer can of course help guide you though this process.

To get the process started, you should try to have available the following documents available:-

Marriage Certificate;


Work Permit or Foreign Expert Certificate;

Police Registration Forms;

Birth Certificate(s) (for minor children only);

Ownership Certificate(s) (if you own real estate).

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