It was with some surprise that I read the headline yesterday. The divorce court in China will force a couple to stay together despite infidelity.
The high court of Shandong posted an article on 2nd January stating that an affair was not a ‘stable extramarital relation’ and that the court would prevent ‘frivolous dissolutions’. The article was removed shortly after, perhaps indicating an awareness of the strength of feeling it would provoke.
Whilst respecting the law in each jurisdiction and culture, the approach by the Chinese divorce court seems to fly in the face of what’s reasonable and tolerable by any human being. Some marriages do survive infidelity but only after significant hard work, reflection and counselling, and those remain the exception. More often, marriages don’t survive adultery and trust is irretrievably broken. The impact on the wronged partner’s emotional and psychological wellbeing in such circumstances would likely be immense, being forced to remain legally tied to a partner who has the support of the state in committing adultery. Children of the family witnessing that dynamic will store up significant problems for their own future relationships.
With fewer couples marrying in China, amendments to the divorce process have been made to encourage couples to stay together but one must reasonably question whether this is a step too far. It appears to give licence to infidelity and, whether or not one supports the institution of marriage, it’s clearly morally wrong to encourage such behaviour. Logic says this approach only encourages couples not to marry, defeating the intention of the exercise at all.
It made me reflect on how far our own family justice system has come with regards to divorce. After years of campaigning, practitioners and clients can breathe a sigh of relief on 6th April this year when no-fault divorce replaces the system of some 50 years where one party must blame the other to divorce without a period of separation. The impact I’ve seen over the years of having to play the ‘blame game’ is too extensive to describe here but has a negative impact on co-parenting for many years after the lawyers have left the case.
So bring on no fault divorce, for the common sense it brings to cases and the emotional wellbeing of parents and children. Well done, UK.