Possession is Nine-Tenths of the Law: Why Wife-Beaters Are Awarded Child Custody in China's Divorce Courts

Ethan Michelson. 2020. “Possession is Nine-Tenths of the Law: Why Wife-Beaters Are Awarded Child Custody in China’s Divorce Courts.” Journal of Comparative Law 15(2): 126-159

34 Pages Posted: 7 Feb 2021 Last revised: 1 Apr 2021

See all articles by Ethan Michelson

Ethan Michelson

Maurer School of Law; Indiana University Bloomington, Department of Sociology

Date Written: December 30, 2020

Abstract

Domestic violence allegations are pervasive in divorce petitions filed by women seeking to divorce their husbands in China's courts. In China, formal legal protections against domestic violence are unimportant to the judges who decide the fates of women seeking their help. Women who flee marital violence often lose their children in the divorce process to the men who abused them because victims of domestic violence are far less likely to have physical possession of their children. When determining child custody, judges are supposed to consider the best interests of children. In practice, however, their impulse is to preserve the status quo. By tending to grant child custody to the parent who has physical possession of the child, judges reward the bad behaviour of perpetrators of domestic violence, punish victims of domestic violence who are forced to escape their abusers, and jeopardize the safety of the very women and children whose interests they are responsible for protecting.

Keywords: China, law, family law, legal system, courts, divorce, child custody, gender, domestic violence

Suggested Citation

Michelson, Ethan, Possession is Nine-Tenths of the Law: Why Wife-Beaters Are Awarded Child Custody in China's Divorce Courts (December 30, 2020). Ethan Michelson. 2020. “Possession is Nine-Tenths of the Law: Why Wife-Beaters Are Awarded Child Custody in China’s Divorce Courts.” Journal of Comparative Law 15(2): 126-159, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3757541 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3757541

Ethan Michelson (Contact Author)

Maurer School of Law ( email )

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Indiana University Bloomington, Department of Sociology ( email )

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