There are three ways for foreigners to get a divorce in China: divorce registration by agreement, filing a divorce lawsuit, and the recognition of foreign divorce judgment in China.
1. Divorce registration by agreement
Divorce registration by agreement means that both husband and wife go to the competent marriage registration authority in China to register the divorce.
A foreigner intending to register a divorce by agreement in China shall satisfy the following requirements:
(1) both parties have filed the marriage registration with the marriage registration authority in China;
(2) either party is a Chinese citizen;
(3) both parties agree to the divorce; and
(4) both parties have reached an agreement on child support, property distribution, and debt assumption.
The procedures for divorce by registration are as follows:
(1) the husband and wife sign a written divorce agreement, which stipulates the property distribution and the custody rights agreed by the parties.
(2) both husband and wife apply for registering the divorce in person.
(3) neither of the husband and wife withdraws the divorce application within 30 days (“cooling-off period”) after the marriage registration authority receives the application for the divorce application.
(4) within 30 days upon the expiration of the cooling-off period, both husband and wife shall go to the marriage registration authority again to apply for the divorce certificate in person.
(5) if the marriage registration authority certifies that both parties apply for the divorce voluntarily, the divorce shall be successfully registered and the divorce certificate shall be issued.
2. Filing a divorce lawsuit
Where the above-mentioned requirements for divorce registration by agreement are not met, either of the couple may initiate an action to request the court to grant the divorce.
Chinese courts will grant the divorce under the following circumstances:
(1) where either spouse is subject to bigamy or cohabitation with others;
(2) where either spouse commits domestic violence, maltreats, or abandons his/her family members;
(3) where either spouse indulges in bad habits, such as gambling, drug abuse even after repeated persuasion;
(4) where the couple lives apart for two years because of emotional discord; and
(5) other circumstances leading to the breakdown of the couple's relationship.
3. Recognizing foreign divorce judgment in China
You may get a divorce in a foreign country and have it recognized in China, but please pay attention to the following:
(1) In general, the validity of a foreign divorce will not be recognized in China if the divorce is only registered with the foreign registration authorities.
(2) Where the divorce is granted by a foreign court, the Chinese court may recognize the judgment of the foreign court, and thus render the divorce valid in China.
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Contributors: Meng Yu 余萌