1978. In 1995 the number of cases in all peoples courts was 1.2 million cases. In 1987 there were 608,000.
11.5There are no statistics on how many cases settle or are contested. There are several ways to divorce. The parties can agree not to go to court and then they attend the civil office to cancel the marriage registration.1129 The court does not have records of how many case are divorced by this method.
People’s Mediation Committee
11.6Before going to court the parties can attend the people’s mediation committee in their neighbourhood for voluntary mediation.1130 If they cannot successfully mediate with the committee then they will go to the court at first level. Although it is not a mandatory requirement to go to extra-judicial mediation prior to a court hearing for divorce, in practice, Palmer reported that it seemed very difficult for unhappy spouses to escape the pre-trial attentions of the local mediation committee.1131 Article 16 of the Law of Civil Procedure does provide that conciliation will be voluntary. Those who decline conciliation or those for whom conciliation has failed or those who have backed out of a settlement agreement may institute proceedings in a people’s court.
11.7Under article 25 of the Marriage Law 1980 parties can go for mediation to other relevant organisations such as their work units, the Marriage Registry or other peoples’ agencies. People’s mediation committees are important mechanism of social control and dispute resolution in the rural and city areas. By 1985 there were over 939,000 people mediation committees and more than 4.5 million mediators.1132 They operate under the guidance of the basic level people’s court and the government.1133 The mediation committee supplement the work of the more formal courts where there is a shortage of trained lawyers.
11.8The second method to obtain a divorce is to go to the court at first level. To commence a divorce the applicant must file a document in the court when there is no agreement produced by mediation with the people’s mediation committee. The court will serve the document on the other party. This takes about two weeks. Before 1991 it could be for an indefinite period as the parties had to mediate. Article 25 of the Marriage Law 1980 provides that “if one party alone desires a divorce, the organisation concerned may carry out mediation or the party may appeal directly to a people’s court to start divorce proceedings”.1134
1129 Article 25 of the Marriage Law.
1130 Ibid, Article 25 and Article 16 of the Law of Civil Procedure 1991.
1131 Palmer, “Mediation in the People’s Republic of China; some general observations” (1988) in Mackie (ed), A handbook of dispute resolution, (1991), 221.
1132Palmer, Ibid at 223.
1133 Article 16 of the Law on Civil Procedure 1991.
1134 Palmer, “Mediation in the People’s Republic of China; some general observation” in Mackie(ed) A handbook of dispute resolution, (1991) 221, 227.