Till death or exam do us part: Chinese province offers ‘divorce test’

Society & Culture

Ongoing efforts by local governments in China to prevent couples from divorcing have reached a new level: The civil affairs bureau of Jiangsu Province recently introduced a voluntary test for divorcing couples before they make their final decision.

Invented by the marriage department of the Donghai County government, the exam, according to the bureau’s official Weibo account (in Chinese), aims to let individuals “understand their partners better while knowing themselves” and to “recall memorable moments in marriage.”

The written exam consists of three parts. The first comprises 10 fill-in-the-blank questions such as “When’s your partner’s birthday?” “How many times have you traveled as a family?” and “How do you split housework?” Then there are four short-answer questions about the happiest moment in the relationship, the biggest conflict in the marriage, and one’s contribution to the marriage. Finally, there is an essay that asks test takers about their general thoughts on the state of their marriage and future plans if they go through with the divorce.

Divorce test 1

Divorce test 2

The Observer reports (in Chinese) that earning a test score above 60 means a broken marriage still can be fixed, whereas a score below 60 indicates that a relationship is on the brink of collapse without much room for redemption.

The first to take the exam was a thirtysomething couple with two kids. The wife got full marks. Astonishingly, the husband scored a 0. Based on the results, the staff advised the husband to put their divorce on hold because, apparently, “the wife still had deep affection for her partner and family.”

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While the bureau stressed that the test was completely voluntary, it is the latest example of some local governments in China going out of their way to create obstacles for couples to divorce. For example, last month, a civil affairs bureau in Anhui Province denied (in Chinese) a woman’s second appeal to split from her husband, who is a habitual gambler, and demanded they stay together for another two months to “calm down.” Commenting on the case, an angry Weibo user questioned, “How come having a gambler husband who can potentially destroy a woman’s family and her entire life is still not a valid reason for divorce?” Another netizen wrote, “Why not ask people to calm down when they get married?”