France set to make it easier to get divorced

France’s Justice Minister is set to mull over a proposal that would simplify the divorce process for thousands of couples, by allowing them to separate without going before a judge. The plan, however, has its critics.

France set to make it easier to get divorced
France look set to make it easier to get divorced. Photo: Mychele Daniau/AFP

Those who strongly defend the institution of marriage in France may not be happy about a report that is set to be handed to Justice Minister Christiane Taubira this month.

The report recommends simplifying the divorce process for thousands of couples in France by allowing them to legally separate without having to go before a judge.  

The proposal was revealed by France’s Le Figaro newspaper on Friday, which reports that only those couples where both partners consent to a divorce will be concerned by any change.

Figures show that 54 percent of the 128,371 divorces in France in 2012 were by mutual consent.

The Minister for Families, Dominique Bertinotti confirmed the plan on Friday, telling BFM TV that "simplification is a good thing."

“One couple in two will divorce. Do we have to make it more difficult?" she added.

The plan is aimed at unclogging the courts, with Le Figaro reporting that 80 percent of court proceedings in France relate to family matters.

Instead of a judge, the court clerk, known as a greffier in French, will be allowed to sanction the divorce.

The report insists however that: "We must ensure that the agreement reached is balanced, that it preserves the interests of all and is not the result of abuse of a dominant position.”

While some critics say the absence of a judge may “undermine the agreement between the partners,” other judges told Le Figaro that clerks are qualified enough to handle the responsibility.

“They are professionals who have a high level of education and knowledge and they know the intricacies of the courts, and know how to process cases,” said one, who was quoted anonymously.

Figures show that fewer couples are choosing to tie the knot at their local Town Hall, with more opting for the no-frills civil union known as the PACS.

In January 2012, the French government announced it was putting together "wedding packs" to give to newly married couples in a bid to cut down on the number of divorces.

Taubira is set to study the report when it is handed to her at a UNESCO conference on justice in the 21st century, which will be held in Paris on January 10th/11th.

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