Colombian married couples will divorce in one hour

A new Colombian proposal soon to become law would allow married couples to untie the knot in as little as one hour and for a mere US$15 (Ђ13), bypassing costly lawyer fees, legal hurdles and the prolonged delays most unhappy couples can expect before a divorce.

The measure, passed by Congress in July, is expected to be signed into law by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe within coming weeks, Uribe's office said Monday.

"The aim is to make life easier for Colombians," Manuel Cuello, superintendent of the National Registrar, told The Associated Press. "Getting divorced should not be such a bureaucratic ordeal."

The proposal was a response to the mounting backlog of divorce cases that are tying up the courts, said Cuello. More than 1 million couples are waiting to have their cases settled.

Under the new law, couples without minor children would no longer need to appear before a judge, but can instead head to their local registrar office with a jointly signed declaration that would then be stamped by an official within one hour. Both parties must agree to the divorce, the AP reports.

A separate declaration must be drawn up spelling out any division of assets. For couples with children, custody plans must be explained to a family affairs official who would then issue a certificate authorizing the divorce or send the case to the courts.

Catholic Church officials object, insisting the measure will only encourage couples to resort to divorce rather than work out their differences.

"It will precipitate the deterioration of the family," said Monsignor Juan Vicente Cordoba, auxiliary bishop of the northern city of Bucaramanga. "We will end up with a more unstable society and unstable children. Marriage vows should not be taken lightly."

Cuello said the pending law has already generated considerable interest. "We have had hundreds of impatient couples asking to be divorced at notary offices, but we have to explain that there are still some legal procedures to be completed before the measure takes effect," he said.


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