Legal experts challenge the merits of ‘fake divorce’ to a heated property market
Even by Chinese standards, it was an eye-opening figure. This March, in the small village of Jiangbei, Jiangsu province, some 160 couples filed for divorce at the same time. But this wasn’t some outbreak of marital discord—the couples, some in their 80s, were merely taking advantage of the fine print in proposals to redevelop their village as a “high-tech development zone.”
Jiangbei’s homeowners all faced compulsory demolition and relocation to local government-built housing—but single residents could qualify for more property, plus around 131,000 RMB (19,000 USD) extra in compensation, compared to married couples. Hence the rush to “divorce”—as one villager told the Nanjing Morning Post, “Everybody is doing this. We’ll deal with the consequences later.” Local divorce attorneys soon began to charge triple their usual fee of 5,000 RMB.
Experts warn that the local government may not honor the extra payouts if couples are found to be exploiting loopholes by, for example, remarrying soon after. Others point out that those who do split for financial reasons may end up arguing over the proceeds, and harm their relationships anyway. These warnings have done little to stop the growing popularity of “fake divorces.”
Severance Pays is a story from our issue, “Wheel Life China.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.