Women in China could face homelessness as a consequence for divorce

By September 9, 2011Divorce

On behalf of The Marks Law Firm, L.L.C posted in Divorce on Friday, September 9, 2011

In China, women rarely purchase homes, even though they often have well-paid jobs and relative financial security. It is even more rare for married women purchase to homes. This is due to deeply held traditional beliefs that men should be the homeowners and the heads of households. Gender inequality in wealth has only increased in recent years because of the dramatic increase in real estate prices that has taken place in China over the past decade.

The Chinese Supreme Court released a decision recently that could have a dramatic effect on divorce and family law in China, particularly as it applies to the division of marital property. The decision has reinterpreted China’s 1990 Marriage Law to classify most marital homes as non-marital property, which is not subject to division during divorce. The previous interpretation of the law considered the marital home to be joint marital property. As a result, most Chinese women seeking divorce will find themselves without a home — and without any right to the divided value of that home.

Proponents of the Supreme Court’s decision say that it protects what is often an extended family’s investment. Because of the rising real estate costs, many Chinese families help their sons financially so they can buy a house or apartment in order to improve their chances of winning a wife. The law protects the family’s investment, proponents argue, by ensuring the son will retain the home in case of a divorce.

Others say this decision simply puts divorce law into greater alignment with property law in China. Under Chinese property law, individuals who buy property own that property individually, and proponents of the ruling believe it is unfair to carve out an exception to that basic rule for married couples. The marriage exception to the property law was created by the New Marriage Law of 1950 (which has been amended to the current Marriage Law of 1980). This 1950 law was among the first passed by the Communist Party once it seized control of