At the Law Office of Russell D. Knight we love languages! Russell D. Knight speaks Spanish and French. Rahul Iyer speaks Hindi and Tamil. After years or representing Chicago’s Chinese-American community in divorce and family law matters while relying on translators and other Chinese speaking lawyers, we now have a team member who speaks Chinese: Lucy Wang.
Lucy Wang is a graduate of Yale University and plans on attending law school after her time with working with our law office. Lucy Wang is incredibly bright, thorough and thoughtful. Lucy Wang shares with us here today her observations as a Chinese speaking paralegal in a family law and divorce firm:
Divorce is not easy for anyone, but can be especially difficult for Chinese and Chinese-American families who come from a cultural context that many American lawyers and judges may not understand. In addition to all the typical concerns surrounding divorces, as a Chinese family, you may also have the following additional or different concerns:
– Recognizing the role of the extended family in marriage and divorce proceedings: In many Chinese and East Asian contexts, parents continue to hold decision making power even when their children are adults. How do you navigate a situation where your parents may not agree with your approach to your divorce?
– Saving face: We will work with you to maintain the utmost privacy and help you save face during the divorce process.
– Communication style: In Chinese communication, what is not said often even more important than what has been said. The last thing you want is to be misunderstood by your lawyer because of cultural differences. We will work with you to communicate effectively and build the strongest case possible.
Divorces in China and the U.S. have striking differences.
Filing for divorce: In China, the People’s court only grants divorces for specific reasons: infidelity, domestic violence, desertion of one family member by another, repeated and incorrigible bad habits of gambling or drug addiction, and separation caused by incompatibility which lasts at least two full years. Additionally, the judge will often encourage reconciliation and mediation before granting a divorce, especially in cases where children are involved. They will often deny the first petition for divorce in hopes that the two parties will reconcile. In contrast, the State of Illinois grants no-fault divorces, which means that you do not need to provide evidence of wrongdoing by any party to get divorced. In fact, the court does not even consider who is at fault when deciding divorce settlements. The judge will not encourage reconciliation and will most likely grant the divorce settlement if both parties are in agreement.
Property allocation: In China, many expect the husband to provide a house as a prerequisite for marriage. And under China’s Marriage Law, family homes purchased before marriage automatically belong to the registered buyer upon divorce. This has tremendous implications for divorce settlements. However, in the U.S., the division of assets is not as clear-cut and depend on other circumstances such as the length of marriage and each party’s income.
Children: In China, the judge often favors allocating parental responsibility to the parent the child is currently residing with. The court also is less likely to enforce orders mandating child visitation rights, meaning that in a very messy divorce situation, a parent may not be able to see their child or children for extended periods of time. In Illinois, allocation of parenting responsibilities is dependent on a variety of factors and enforceable in court. That is, if a parent isn’t following the judge’s ruling, there may be legal implications.
If you speak Chinese, have assets in China or would simply prefer to interact with someone who understands your culture as you face divorce or other family law issue, don’t hesitate to contact the Law Office of Russell D. Knight.