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The Supreme People's Court yesterday issued a new package of judicial interpretations on the revised Marriage Law, which became effective last year.

The actions come to facilitate implementation of the law in such fields as divorce property partition cases.

The judicial interpretations - 29 clauses in total - will become effective on April 1.

Court officials said they are trying to address some newly emerging problems in divorce-caused property cases as a result of China's fast-changing economic and social developments.

Huang Songyou, vice-president of the court, said: "These tangles have become headaches of judges, therefore, we have initiated explicit judicial references to ensure fair results and to avoid further judicial arguments in the future."

For example, judicial interpretations define for the first time that stocks and shares bought in marriage should be counted as joint property and subject to property division in divorces.

But the disposal of company shares should respect the opinions and interests of other parties involved as well, especially when the disposal might influence related businesses.

Also addressed is home ownership of the couples divorcing. If they have purchased a house from the government at a price lower than the market price during the country's welfare housing reform, the judicial interpretation classifies the housing as "joint property."

Meng Gang, a lawyer with the Beijing-based Jingcheng Firm, welcomed the interpretation, saying that better safeguards are in place for female parties and children now.

"Because men still play a more dominant role both in society and at home in today's China, this will help. Not to take into account shares, stocks and housing - all common forms of household properties - will violate the proper rights and interests of the female parties," said Meng.

Chen Xiaodan, a 35-year-old middle school teacher in Beijing, ended her decade-long marriage in June taking away only some cash worth no more than 50,000 yuan (US$6,038.6).

"I know we have much more joint property than this, but I had no idea how much he (her ex-husband) had put in the stock market," she said.

Meng said Chen's case shows the unfairness of current law toward women.

"If these women had lawyers, they might be urged to fight for shares, stocks and housing. But most of them do not have lawyers, and just give up things easily," Meng said.

"Of course, they give up so easily, only because they do not know of their rights... that they deserve at least half of the property."

The new interpretations also tackle some other legal issues, such as whether betrothal gifts should be returned.

(China Daily 12/27/2003 page2)


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