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  • Writer's pictureAvon Y.F. Zhao

How Long Does It Take for Foreigners to Get Divorced in China?

Navigating the divorce process can be challenging, and this is especially true for foreigners in China. Understanding how long it takes for foreigners to get divorced in China involves grasping the legal requirements, procedures, and potential obstacles. This article aims to provide a clear overview of these aspects, offering guidance to those facing this situation.

Reference for Getting Divorced in China

Legal Requirements for Divorce in China

For foreigners to get divorced in China, certain legal prerequisites must be met:

  1. Jurisdiction: The couple must determine whether Chinese courts have jurisdiction over their case. Generally, if one spouse is a Chinese citizen or if the couple's common residence is in China, Chinese courts may have jurisdiction.

  2. Grounds for Divorce: Similar to many countries, China recognizes several grounds for divorce, including mutual consent, irreconcilable differences, and instances of domestic violence or adultery.

  3. Documentation: Required documents typically include marriage certificates, passports, residency permits, and proof of grounds for divorce. If documents are in foreign language, certified translations may be necessary.

Divorce Procedures in China

The divorce process for foreigners in China can be categorized into two main types: consensual divorce and contested divorce.

1. Consensual Divorce: If both parties agree to the divorce and the terms, they can apply for a divorce certificate at the Civil Affairs Bureau. This process is relatively straightforward and can be completed within months, provided all documentation is in order and both parties attend in person. 

  • Please note that according to the latest regulations, after submitting the divorce application, there is a required one-month waiting period ("cooling-off period") before the divorce certificate can be obtained.

2. Contested Divorce: If the parties cannot agree on the terms, the case must be taken to court. The court process involves several steps:

  • Preparation Work: Before submitting the application for case filing, it is necessary to prepare the complaint and related materials, including the possible notarization and authentication of some documents.

  • Filing the Case: The plaintiff must file a petition for divorce with the appropriate court.

  • Mediation: Chinese courts often encourage mediation before proceeding with a formal trial. This step can vary in duration depending on the complexity of the issues.

  • Trial: If mediation fails, the court will schedule a trial. The timeline for a trial can be unpredictable, often taking several months to a year or more, especially if there are disputes over property division, child custody, or alimony.

Challenges and Considerations

Several factors can influence the timeline and complexity of the divorce process for foreigners in China:

  1. Language Barriers: Navigating legal proceedings in a foreign language can be daunting. Hiring a bilingual lawyer can help mitigate misunderstandings and ensure all documents are correctly prepared in advance and translated.

  2. Cultural Differences: Understanding Chinese legal and cultural nuances is crucial. What might be standard practice in one’s home country could be different in China.

  3. Legal Representation: Securing experienced legal representation familiar with international divorce cases in China can significantly impact the process's efficiency and outcome.


In conclusion, the duration and complexity of the divorce process for foreigners in China can vary widely based on several factors.

A consensual divorce can be finalized relatively quickly, while a contested divorce may take considerably longer due to court proceedings and potential disputes.

Understanding the legal requirements, procedures, and possible challenges is essential for anyone facing this situation. By being well-prepared and seeking appropriate legal advice, foreigners can navigate the divorce process in China more effectively.


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