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Plan would simplify divorces in France

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By The Associated Press
Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, 9:33 p.m.

PARIS — France is considering a plan to allow divorces by mutual consent to proceed without a judge, simplifying a process that some critics say is now too easy.

Social Affairs Minister Dominique Bertinotti confirmed the plan was under consideration on Friday, telling BFM-TV that “simplification is a good thing.”

Under the report requested by France's justice minister and expected to be laid out in mid-January, a court clerk could approve divorces when both spouses agree.

According to Le Figaro newspaper, divorcing couples in agreement spend an average of only eight minutes before a judge now. The paper said 54 percent of French divorces are uncontested.

Bertinotti said court clerks are highly trained in the law and could handle those cases, freeing up judges for trickier breakups.

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

Opponents say the proposal will further weaken the institution of marriage, as well as make agreements harder to enforce.

“Doing without a judge's authority risks weakening the agreement and reinforces the sentiment — common about those divorcing — that they've been had,” Elodie Mulon, a specialist in family law, told Le Figaro.

Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, a government spokeswoman, said the proposal was among about 200 in the report.

“At this stage, we are looking at open topics that are of interest and deserve close study,” she said.

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