A new interpretation related to the country's marriage law that goes into effect on Thursday will protect individuals from having to pay off their partner's unknown debts, a marriage lawyer said Wednesday.
The latest judicial interpretation by China's supreme court releases a husband or wife from paying their spouse's debt if they know nothing about it.
The debt will only be identified as the couple's shared debt when both spouses signed debt contract or the other party later acknowledged and agreed to the debt of the spouse.
It also stipulates that a debt should be identified as a common obligation if the debt was taken on for family life use.
"The previous law before the new interpretation offered more protection to creditors as required during the societal background of the 1990s," said Lin Nan, a Beijing-based divorce lawyer from Liang Gao Law Firm.
"The new interpretation is more inclined to protect the husband or wife in a marriage relationship, and at the same time lays more burden of proof on the creditor," Lin said.
With rising divorce rates, Lin noted a surge in debt disputes including "fake debt" cases. The interpretation can help protect a husband or wife who did not take on or even know about their spouse's debts.
"A loan contract or certificate signed by both husband and wife as well as materials including a text message, a WeChat message, email and telephone record that can prove that the husband or wife acknowledged and agreed to the loan can all be assertive evidence provided by the creditor to prove that it is a common obligation," an unnamed staffer from China's Supreme People's Court said in an article published on the court's WeChat social media account.
Local courts should not uphold one's claim on common debt if the individual debt of the husband or wife is beyond the family's daily expenses.
If the creditor can prove the debt was taken on for joint business operations of the couple, the debt should be identified as a common obligation of the couple, according to the interpretation.
Some internet users disliked the interpretation for forcing a husband or wife to ask their spouse to sign a debt contract, while others expressed their support.
"It's possible a creditor suddenly knocks on your door and asks for a huge debt to be repaid and you didn't even know when and why the money was borrowed," wrote Weibo user woshimengmengya.
"If you were in such a situation, you would applaud the new interpretation."