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The Mediation of Divorce Suits Involving Concubines in the Early PRC

Sun, April 3, 10:45am to 12:45pm, Washington State Convention Center, Floor: 6th Floor, Room 609


This paper explores how the guiding principles of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) family law shaped the handling of divorce cases involving concubines. The twin principles to which the CCP committed itself—monogamy and protection of the interests of women and children—often conflicted with one another in cases involving concubines. CCP law’s categorization of concubinage as de facto marriage, which was recognized as a valid marriage, meant that concubinage legally constituted bigamy. To uphold monogamy required that concubinage arrangements be terminated, but mandating divorce (as would be the case in other instances of bigamy) might harm the interests of the wife, concubine and children. Rather than impose a universal policy, the CCP adopted instead a case-by-case approach. This paper draws on model divorce cases involving concubines to examine how CCP judges used the process of mediation to resolve marital disputes and to determine which marriage—that of concubine or that of wife—should be dissolved.