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The ABCs of Marriage and Divorce Laws for Foreigners in China

  • Time:2020-02-07
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The ABCs of Marriage and Divorce Laws for Foreigners in China

Marriages involving a foreigner in China are becoming increasingly common in the present day. In most cases, the legal procedures and laws of China, the country that the couple agrees to marry governs their marriage. This type of marriage does not need to take place in both China and the country of origin of the other couple because marriage in one country is ordinarily acknowledged in all others.

A few issues may make a marriage valid in one country, such as China, but invalid in another, for example, multiple spouse marriages, same-sex marriages, minimum age a person may marry, and religious differences.

A jurisdiction may also recognize an international marriage but deny the automatic entry of one's spouses into it. Many countries require foreigners who are married to their citizens to apply for citizenship. In the same way, non-nationals, who are married to Chinese citizens, have no automatic right to live in China.

Legal Conditions for Marrying a Chinese

Civil Affairs Bureau (min zheng ju), handles the administration of marriage to a Chinese person. Even though the couple can marry at a marriage registration office in the area that the Chinese spouse is living, you typically are required to visit the office in the jurisdiction where the Chinese spouse is recorded on his or her hukou.

When you visit the office to collect the marriage application form in China, do not forget to check on the procedures – because the local government office may have some disparities in the execution of rules.

The legal minimum age for marrying partners in China is twenty years for women and twenty two for men. The law in China does not permit marriages between partners who are already married to other persons: the marriage law in China does not allow couples to have more than one husband or wife. Besides, only a female and a male can get married in China, but not two individuals of the same sex.

After completing the marriage registration application form, the Chinese partner and the foreign partner will be required to submit other documents for marriage registration such as below:

The Chinese partner submits

· ID certificate;

· A certificate of marriage status;

· A health certificate – accessible from a regional level local hospital;

· A household registration book – hukou;

The foreign partner submits

· A Chinese resident permit;

· A current passport;

· Three photos of the couple that were taken together;

· A certificate of marriage status;

· A health certificate from a local hospital selected by the marriage registration officer.

The marriage registration office may require some more information from the foreign partner. Fundamentally, a form from the government of the international partner stating that she or he is not already married will be needed. The form acquisition process varies from country to country, couples can check their country consulate’s website for details on how to obtain this certification. Officially stamped Chinese translations must also accompany foreign language forms. Finally, the couple is required to pay the registration service charge, the marriage certificate costs, and the interpretation services costs.

Even though the marriage application in China is not different from civil marriages in many European countries, the process is administrative. The marriage ceremony is not necessary at all, thus the whole event typically is concluded within an hour, sometimes in just fifteen minutes.

However, Chinese law does not allow the following categories of Chinese citizens to marry foreigners:

· People serving in the army, who are still in active service, personnel working in the public security, confidential employees and other individuals in custody of crucially confidential work;

· Persons who are getting rehabilitation through labor or serving a jail term.

Legal Eligibility to Divorce in China

The Chinese legal system allows couples with some links to China to divorce. Mainland China can handle your divorce process if you fall under any of the following categories:

· A foreigner married to a Chinese citizen;

· Two foreign citizens married in China;

· Chinese couple living in China or abroad.

The Chinese couple that is married in China can quickly get a divorce in China even if they are presently living overseas. For a foreigner, who is married to a Chinese, either abroad or in China, can divorce in China. Expat couples married either abroad or in China may as well get a divorce in China, provided they meet some simple conditions:

· Existence of a mutual agreement to divorce between the couple to divorce under Chinese law;

· One couple must have resided in the same Chinese town for at least one year;

Is a Divorce in China Globally Binding?

A divorce process conducted in China is recognized in many other countries like the US, New Zealand, Australia, and all countries in Europe. However, every country has its procedures for "transferring" a judgment from one country to another. Basically, China recognizes two main types of divorce: divorce by agreement and divorce by litigation.

· Divorce by Agreement: When the couple wants or agrees to the divorce, then the divorce by agreement is possible. Under this type of divorce, both parties are at liberty to discuss the division of joint marital property, spousal payments, and child custody and support. If one marriage partner is a Chinese citizen and the marriage was initially done in China, an “express” divorce process is often likely. In this case, the couple may not need to use the Chinese courts.

· Divorce by litigation: In the absence of prior agreement, the divorce process must be conducted through the courts in China. Under these scenarios, the presiding judge gives a ruling on child custody, spousal support payments, visitation rights, child support, and property division. In most cases,  contentious divorces in China are granted when there exist:

o Loss of affection;

o Incompatibility that led the couple to live separately for more than two years;

o Bigamy or cohabitation  with a third party;

o Maltreatment or domestic violence;

o Long-term drug addiction or gambling;

o An official declaration that one partner is missing.

Wrapping up,

Chinese law allows international marriages. When one partner is a Chinese citizen, and they want to get married in China, the couple is required to visit the marriage registration department and apply for marriage registration. The application can only be considered if the couple produces the required marriage authentication documents from the Chinese government, the foreign partner's government, and the Chinese couple's parents. The couple must as well agree to abide by the Marriage Law of the People’s Republic of China.

Marriage is generally a beautiful thing. However, some marriages may bring more harm than good, hence the need for divorce. Going through the process of divorce may be devastating, especially when one partner is a foreigner. The legal system in China permits divorce by agreement and divorce by litigation. Divorce by litigation may be a bit complicated and time-consuming.

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