Divorce and alimony laws changed in China this year. Under the new Civil Code, a judge just ordered a man to pay thousands of dollars to his former wife for housework she did during their five-year marriage. In China, they call it a landmark ruling.
New Chinese Divorce Laws
The new Civil Code of China became effective on January 1, 2021. Both spouses are treated equally under the law and are equally entitled and obligated to take care of the children and support each other.
So, if parents do not sufficiently perform their duties caring for their children, the child may demand reasonable maintenance costs from the parents.
Children do not get off easy either. The new code makes children obligated to support their parents. Adult children are generally obligated to support their parents if they can no longer work or otherwise provide for their livelihood.
In the landmark ruling, the wife demanded $24,700 from her husband after he filed for divorce. The wife said she was left to take care of the couple’s child and do the housework alone, and her husband barely cared about or participated in any kind of domestic chores.
The family court ordered the husband to pay her $7,700 as “housework compensation,” after splitting their joint property equally. Wife was also awarded custody of their son and $300 per month in alimony.
The ruling is the first of its kind under China’s new civil code.
Florida Divorce and Alimony
Divorce and alimony are nothing new in Florida. I’ve written about subject of alimony in Florida. In every Florida dissolution of marriage case, the court can grant alimony to either party – husband or wife.
Not many people realize there are several types of alimony in Florida: bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, or permanent alimony.
Florida courts can also award a combination of alimony types in a divorce. Alimony awards are normally paid in periodic payments, but sometimes the payments can be in a lump sum or both lump sum and periodic payments.
In determining whether to award alimony or not, the court has to first make a determination as to whether a wife or a husband, has an actual need for alimony, and whether the other party has the ability to pay alimony.
Typically, courts consider any type of earned income or compensation — that is, income resulting from employment or other efforts — along with recurring passive income, such as dividends on your investments, in establishing the amount of support you will be responsible to pay.
In Florida, once a court determines there is a need and the income available to pay alimony – sometimes referred to as the ability to pay alimony – it has to decide the proper type and amount of alimony. In doing so, the court considers several factors, some of which may include:
- The standard of living established during the marriage.
- The duration of the marriage.
- The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party.
- The financial resources of each party, including the nonmarital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.
- The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties and, when applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate.
But, after establishing Hightower’s need for alimony, how much dinero is there to determine De Niro’s ability to pay?
Chinese Divorce Express
China’s new Civil Code provides two ways to divorce, either the simple official registration of the divorce with a joint application or divorce proceedings in court.
If everyone signs a marital settlement agreement, a divorce can be registered with the authorities if both spouses file a corresponding divorce application. A short cooling off period of 30 days applies.
In contested cases, the court initially acts as a family mediation court, tries to prevent the divorce or reach a settlement of the conflict. If unsuccessful, and the court considers the marriage to be irretrievably broken, the court orders the divorce.
Interestingly, a husband may not apply for divorce if his wife is pregnant or within one year of the birth, or within six months of the end of the pregnancy. The only exceptions are if the wife herself applies for divorce or if the court considers it necessary to grant the husband’s divorce application.
If the divorced spouses have a child under 2 years of age, the mother generally receives custody. In the case of a child between 2 and 8 years of age, if the parents cannot reach an agreement, the court can decide which parent will be given custody. If the child is older than 8 years, his or her preference must be taken into account.
The recent landmark ruling became a trending topic on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service, viewed more than 500 million times. While some comments applauded the ruling as a recognition of the hard, unpaid labor at home, others said the amount awarded was too little to cover five years of housework and childcare.
Unequal gender roles in domestic life have been a topic of public debate in China in recent years amid a rising feminist movement. Despite increasing education levels and women’s growing economic status, gender norms and patriarchal traditions have not caught up with these changes, and women are still expected to carry out most of the childcare and housework after marriage.
Housework compensation is designed to offer additional protection to spouses who have undertaken more domestic chores — and sacrificed opportunities to advance their career or education, according to legal experts.
For the spouse who has been working quietly at home, they will have to face the problem of returning to work, which means that the homemaker has to pay a hidden cost in addition to the efforts they paid during the marriage.
The right to seek housework compensation in divorce proceedings is not a new concept in Chinese law. In 2001, housework compensation was added to a revision of China’s marriage law with the precondition that it only applied to couples who agreed to separation of property, in which each spouse retains exclusive ownership of property acquired during the marriage.
Divorce rates in China have climbed nearly five times in the past three decades. According to government statistics, there were 0.69 divorces per thousand people in 1990. By 2019, the latest figures available, that number stood at 3.36.
Now that the new civil code is in force, the judge said she expected more cases involving demands for housework compensation to be filed. But in practice, we still need to accumulate experience in how to meter out the amount of compensation.
The CNN article is here.