'No application for divorce only because of adultery' triggers widespread controversy
Published: Jan 03, 2022 11:30 PM
divorce Photo: CFP

Photo: CFP

The publication of an article on divorce application has aroused widespread public controversy after it claimed that adultery is not an act of cohabitation and cannot be taken as the only motive to apply for a divorce.

The article, titled "Application for divorce will not be allowed only because of cheating," was published on Sunday by the High People's Court in East China's Shandong Province. 

It said that cheating is not an act of cohabitation because cohabitation refers to a married person living with someone without marriage relations continuously and stably, according to the judicial explanation of the marriage and family section of the Civil Code sanctioned by the Supreme Court on December 29, 2020.

Therefore, adultery cannot be claimed when filing for a divorce unless it can be proved as continuous and stable behavior, said the article.

"For example, records of your spouse living with someone in a hotel, or photographs of your spouse holding hands with someone in the street, are not proof of cohabitation," it added.

The controversy comes from the interpretation that adultery is not an act of cohabitation and is not a valid excuse to file for a divorce. It left the public with the impression that you cannot ask for a divorce even if your spouse has an affair with someone, said experts.

Although the article has been deleted, the hashtag "No application for divorce because of cheating" has received more than 990 million views and comments on Sina Weibo, China's Twitter-like social media platform, where netizens have expressed that this argument is very extreme.

The interpretation on the marriage law expressed in the article will confuse the public, said Shen Jianing, a lawyer from the Tianni Law Office, in East China's Jiangsu Province, online news outlet reported.

Shen explained that adultery clearly violates the responsibility of mutual loyalty and respect required by the Civil Code, which lists "other circumstances leading to the rupture of spousal relationship" as a bottom-up provision for sentencing divorce, besides four other specific grounds, including bigamy and cohabitation. 

"This means the rupture of the spousal relationship is the key for sentencing a divorce. Either occasional infidelity or continuous cohabitation will lead to the rupture of the spousal relationship and the betrayed side has the right to file for divorce," Shen emphasized.