Shanghai plans to introduce an online appointment booking service for people wanting a divorce, in a bid to make the process more organized and convenient for the growing number of couples in the city looking to end their marriages.
Since the launch of the amended Marriage Registration Regulation on Feb 1, an added procedure involving inquiries and questions has increased the length of the process to register for a divorce from around 25 to 35 minutes to a new time of between 45 and 55 minutes.
The extra time is down to the fact that couples must now talk to staff at the registration office separately to independently confirm their willingness to proceed and statements they have made.
The additional work and slower process was part of the reason why Pudong district's civil affairs bureau chose to reduce the number of appointments it would handle each day. That, in turn, has led to crowded waiting rooms.
"We are discussing launching an online booking system for couples to select an appointment time in advance to shorten the waiting time and control the number of daily filings," said Sun Xiaohong, deputy director of the marriage management department at the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau. "We're still getting used to the new effects from the amended measures."
Shanghai is not the first place in China to introduce appointments for divorce registration.
For 13 months, couples in Yunnan province's Dali Bai autonomous prefecture had to wait at least seven days for an appointment to finalize a divorce after first registering with the local government.
According to Dali civil affairs bureau, they introduced the one-week waiting period to prevent impulsive divorces.
However, the policy had to be canceled on March 8 after the Ministry of Civil Affairs ruled it countered the nation's Marriage Law because it interfered with people's rights.
"The policy runs against the Marriage Law's rule of ensuring people can get married and divorced with freedom, which shouldn't be interfered with," said Zhang Liang, secretary-general of the Family Research Center with the Shanghai Academy of Social Science.
However, Sun from Shanghai said that the bureau in Pudong will be able to bring in appointments because the move is aimed at offering a better service, not because it seeks to delay couples seeking a divorce.
More than 3.6 million couples divorced across the country in 2014, 3.9 percent higher than in the previous year.
Shi Wenzhi contributed to this story.
By Yu Ran in Shanghai and Li Yingqing in Kunming (China Daily)
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