People stuck with ex-spouses’ loans band together

By Zhao Yusha Source:Global Times Published: 2016/10/16 19:53:39

Photo: CFP

Photo: CFP

"It is unfortunate enough that my marriage failed; now I have to carry the burden of huge debts, which were not borrowed by me, for the rest of my life."

Chen Ling (pseudonym), the founder of the "anti-Article 24 alliance," a group formed by people against the debt rules of China's Marriage Law, has been trying to break free of her ex-husband's debts for three years.

Chen told the Global Times she received a demand for repayment in 2011, then seven other demands followed, adding up to a total debt of 3.37 million yuan ($509,000), which she knew nothing about previously.

"This money was borrowed by my ex-husband alone during our marriage, but the court ruled I had to pay it jointly with him after we divorced," said Chen.

Chen's salary was then frozen by the court in 2013 as she could not pay off the loan, which pushed her to embark of the road of defending herself.

Article 24 of the Marriage Law stipulates that "at the time of divorce, debts incurred jointly by the husband and the wife during their married life shall be paid off jointly by them. Where their jointly possessed property is insufficient to pay the debts, or the property is in their separate possession, the two parties shall discuss alternative ways of payment; if they fail to reach an agreement, the court shall make a judgment."

The rule was made mainly to protect creditors' interests, Xia Yinlan, a professor at the China University of Political Science and Law told the Global Times on Thursday.

This article has sparked heated controversy in recent years.

Now Chen's alliance has some 200 members from all over China, some 89 percent are female and the majority of them are single mothers.

Marked as dishonest

The law says that if the debt cannot not be proven to be a personal debt, then it should be jointly shouldered by the couple, said Xia.

She noted that it is almost impossible to prove a debt is only related to one person as the creditor usually refuses to make it personal in order to ensure the loan will be repaid.

According to Xia, the loophole in Article 24 is that it does not request the court to investigate whether the borrowed money was used to support the family.

She added that "one of the couple might collude with others to fake debt and damage the interests of their spouse."

Wang, a woman from Shanxi Province, said that she did not find out about the 1.37 million yuan loan that she was ordered to pay jointly with her ex-husband in 2011 until she was unable to purchase a train ticket online in September, because her name was on a list of dishonest persons.

"The government listed me as "dishonest" as I failed to pay the debt," said Wang.

Wang said she and her former husband divorced in 2010 and she had no idea of her husband's huge debts, "he was always outside gambling and he also went to jail one year before we got married for fraud."

Wang said she is suspicious about her husband's debts, because "the creditor is my husband's good friend and the loan receipt is strange as it says 900,000 yuan was borrowed in cash, which made the transition difficult to verify."

Moreover, Wang said no one notified her about the 2011 court session or its outcome, otherwise she would have defended herself.

Problem of proof

Fu Lijuan, a delegate to the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, said that the number of court cases being heard in Hunan Province involving couples' loans tripled from 2013 to 2015, reported.

Some courts did not even check the facts of the loan, such as what it was spent on, Li Mingshun, vice director of the Marriage and Family Law Studies Association under the China Law Society, told the Global Times on Thursday, adding that it is irresponsible to rule only based on the loan receipt.

Du Wanhua, a member of the Supreme People's Court's Judicial Committee, said that it is the creditor's responsibility to prove a debt's validity.

According to Xia, a debtor is obligated to prove the loan was used to support the family if he (or she) desires their spouse to shoulder the loan jointly; if the debtor fails to prove this the obligation falls on the creditor.

If both sides fail to prove these facts, the debtor should pay the debt alone, said Xia.

One member of the alliance, surnamed Zhao, told the Global Times that "it would be much easier if couples share the loan jointly only if they both sign the loan receipt."

Newspaper headline: Divorce debt

Posted in: SOCIETY

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