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UPDATED: August 29, 2011 NO. 35 SEPTEMBER 1, 2011
Is the New Marriage Law Interpretation Right?


The Supreme People's Court of China recently made public the latest interpretation on applying the Marriage Law, which is meant to provide a judicial basis for courts. The interpretation consists of 19 new items and is valid from August 13 this year.

One of the items says, "If one purchases real estate under his or her own name with a down payment before the marriage and the real estate remains solely in the name of the buyer after the marriage, the real estate will be determined as personal property in the event of a divorce with the unpaid part of the mortgage as a personal debt of the mortgagee. The part of the mortgage the non-mortgagee has paid jointly during the marriage will be paid back by the real estate owner." In short, a house purchased before a marriage is personal property. The money paid toward the mortgage by married partners should be paid back in the same ratio in divorce proceedings.

Another item says, "if the parents of one of the married couple buy a house for their child and the property ownership certificate is solely registered to the child, the house will belong to the child in the event of a divorce. If both parents of the couple buy a house for the couple, the house will be split proportionately to the amount of money parents spent buying the house."

These two items, which are directly related to possession of a family house in the event of a divorce, have attracted the most attention, against the backdrop of soaring housing prices and high divorce rates in China.

The divorce rate in China has kept rising in recent years, with an average annual increase of 7 percent. In 2010, 2.67 million couples divorced. Accordingly, divorce cases in courts have increased. The most frequent cases concern two problems: the ownership of mortgaged houses and houses gifted by parents during marriage. Thus, the judicial interpretation of the Marriage Law has been issued after three years of preparation and soliciting of public opinion.

As soon as the interpretation was released, it triggered heated discussion in society. People who approve it say they think married couples should be equal partners. The new interpretation shows the law pays greater attention to individual rights than previously.

On the other hand, opponents say they think the law is unfair to women, who are already in a more disadvantaged position in marriage. Also, a family shouldn't be all about money, it should also be about love. Business rules are therefore not suitable.


Yu Ge (http://www.eeo.com.cn): The judicial interpretation of the Marriage Law is like a big earthquake in all families in China.

The interpretation shows the new moral orientation of China's Marriage Law. In the past, the law paid more attention to family ethics while now it is paying and will pay more attention to personal rights. Two people in marriage should first be two individuals and then a married couple. The individual's right is superior to the marriage. It seems harsh but it's the only way to protect people's individual rights to the greatest extent. The new interpretation of the Marriage Law reflects the new concept of the law, from defining a marriage by ethics to regulating it by contract.

News reports say these 19 items of the judicial interpretation will change people's viewpoints about marriage, which is bound to be a good thing.

Married couples should be equal partners to each other. The parents of the man struggle for their whole life and buy a house for their son. If the woman can take half of the house away in the event of a divorce, isn't that unfair on the man and his parents?

Regulating the rights of both sides in a marriage may sound unacceptable to those who think marriage is all about romance, but it should be the main purpose of the Marriage Law. If you think it's a problem of the law, you are mistaken. What has gone wrong may be your view of marriage or even the world.

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