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Courts to protect spouses from fake, illegal debt

(Global Times) Updated : 2017-03-01

China's supreme court amended a judicial interpretation on the Marriage Law on Tuesday to protect those who are forced to repay the debt of their spouse.

People's courts shall not uphold one's claim on debt if he or she colludes with one side of a couple to fake a debt, according to the amended Article 24 of the second judicial interpretation of China's Marriage Law released on the website of the Supreme People's Court (SPC).

The new interpretation added that if one side of a couple incurs debt through criminal means, such as gambling or taking drugs, the people's court shall not uphold the debt claim as well.

The amended judicial interpretation takes effect on Wednesday, according to the SPC.

According to a notice on the SPC's website on Tuesday, one shall not be responsible for the debt of a spouse without trial, which both parties shall attend.

The previous Article 24 issued in 2004 stipulates that debts incurred during married life must be paid off jointly by the couple. However, many people have been forced to pay off the debt of their spouses, which were faked or borrowed without the spouse's consent or even without his or her knowledge.

Ren Chao, a Beijing-based divorce lawyer, told the Global Times on Tuesday that 90 percent of his clients had been ordered to repay their shares of the spouse's debt, which they did not know until the divorce case.

A woman surnamed Dong told the Chengdu Business Daily on February 7 that she had to pay off 5 million yuan ($728,000) borrowed by her husband two months after their marriage, as her husband ran away from the debt.

According to a research involving 284 people who have to pay off their spouse's debt, 82.4 percent received college education and 81.7 percent have stable careers such as judges, professors and journalists, the China Newsweek reported in December 2016.

About 20 percent of the victims surveyed had their premarital property sealed and 58.9 percent had been or were expected to be listed as dishonest people, which means they were banned from traveling in second class or above by train or ship and other types of "high-end consumption" defined by the SPC.

Though the amended interpretation is a big step toward protecting victims' interests, the enforcement still faces difficulties such as collecting proof of the collusion, said Ren.

The change was made amid a surge in the number of cases related to Article 24. A total of 53,081 verdicts based on the article from 2004 to 2017 are listed on SPC's website, including 17,987 verdicts in 2016. However, the number of verdicts in 2012 was 463.