Czech judges propose simpler divorce proceedings

Since the fall of communism the number of divorces in the Czech Republic has increased by a third and statisticians predict the number will increase even further. Divorce proceedings are a considerable burden for the Czech Republic's overstrained court system and that's why the Czech Union of Judges would like to make divorces much simpler and quicker.

Jaromir Jirsa
The President of the Czech Union of Judges, Jaromir Jirsa, who presented the plan on Thursday, says there are more and more cases when the divorcing couple agree beforehand on the division of property, custody of children and housing, and the court then decides in a matter of minutes.

"If they submit the three agreements, the court is not entitled to scrutinise anything and is obliged to dissolve the marriage. I think these simple cases could be dealt with by the registry office which concluded the marriage. I see it as one way of lifting the burden off the courts and enabling them to deal with the more complicated cases."

Jaromir Jirsa says he is not afraid that simpler divorce proceedings would encourage more people to get a divorce in a country where the divorce rate is already quite high.

"It has no relation to the divorce rate. I honour the institute of marriage, and that's why I see it as degrading if a court decides 'in the name of the Republic' about a couple - who aren't event present at the court - only on the basis of some documents. If the registry office can decide about such things as paternity, I see no reason why it could not dissolve a marriage of two people who have settled everything."

The President of the Czech Union of Judges also says that court proceedings often aggravate the conflict between the couple and that's why judges welcome it if the couple try and solve their dispute with a counsellor before the hearing. Such consultations used to be compulsory under communism. Today they are voluntary, but the head of the Association of Marriage and Family Counsellors, Petr Smolka, says quite often a marriage is saved thanks to professional consultation.

"According to our statistics, out of the couples that approach us after they file for divorce, some 23 percent take it back and stay together."

Jaromir Jirsa from the Czech Union of Judges says the proposal is a first contribution of Czech judges to the legislative process in the Czech Republic. He says they would welcome it if the lawmakers took it as an inspiration to amend the law on the family.