Under a new Civil Code which came into force on January 1, couples filing for divorce must wait 30 days after submitting their application, during which time either party can withdraw the petition. They must then apply again after the month is up in order for the marriage to be ended. The law, based on local legislation already in force in several parts of the country, was widely criticized as hampering personal freedoms and potentially trapping people in unhappy or even violent marriages. But supporters in state media defended it as "ensuring family stability and social order."
Divorces have been steadily increasing in China over recent years, due in part to reduced social stigma and greater autonomy for women, with wives instigating more than 70% of divorces, according to the All-China Women's Federation.