Couples in China who file for divorce are being asked to take exams which explore how much they have grown apart and whether their marriage can be salvaged. Authorities in at least three Chinese provinces launched the measure amid rising divorce rates in the country.

The tests ask questions such as “When is your anniversary” and “What was your sweetest moment together” and are intended to provoke deep reflection for warring couples.

Liu Chunling, a marriage registration official in a town in the eastern Jiangsu province which has introduced the exams, said the measure would help tackle the rise of “impulsive divorces”.

She told Chinese media it gives couples a moment to “calm down and reminisce on moments in their marriage, reflecting on their roles and responsibilities in the marriage and family life.” Ms Liu added: “A beautiful, harmonious family needs a beautiful and harmonious marriage.”

While some of the tests are voluntary, Chinese reports said at least one separation was halted by officials after they processed the results. “The couple earned scores (of) 80 and 86, separately,” said a report from state broadcaster CGTN on a case in Yibin, in China’s south-western Sichuan province, which introduced the tests last year.

“The high scores suggested a healthy marriage. The judge said the wife – the one who filed for the divorce – became much calmer after the test, and agreed to the court’s decision.”

Similar exams were rolled out in the northern city of Xi’an in February. Many people on Chinese social media said that the tests are intrusive, and that authorities should not interfere with a couple’s right to separate.

However, the breakdown of families is a major worry for Beijing, which believes social instability is threat to its rule.

The government is also seeking to encourage Chinese couples to produce more babies to help confront problems caused by a rapidly ageing population, a result of four decades of the ‘one child policy’.

A three month ‘cooling off period’ was introduced in some Chinese cities to deter couples who file for divorce. Up to half of marriages between those who were born in the 1980s have broken up in China.