The French Government is to introduce longer civil ceremonies and a, “marriage preparation kit” that will remind soon-to-be husbands and wives what they are signing up for, in a bid to reduce the country's high divorce levels.
Currently, the French divorce rate is 50 per cent.
Announcing the new plans, minister of state for family affairs Claude Greff said that, currently, civil ceremonies were too impersonal, too short (some take as little as five minutes) and failed to give couples a sense of their rights and responsibilities, The Irish Times reports.
“Many citizens discover much later what the civil code involves, but by then it’s too late. I want to make the risks clear,” she said.
France’s divorce rate in 2010 was 50 per cent, according to the national statistics office, and rose to 66 per cent in the Paris region.
The “preparation kit” was suggested by an official working group charged with finding ways of reducing the marriage breakdown numbers.
The group was told many married couples knew little about their commitments to their in-laws or their financial obligations after divorce.
“We have to make sure people know what they’re getting into,” said the national federation of Catholic family associations.
Not everyone has endorsed the initiative, however.
François de Singly, a sociology professor at Paris Descartes University, dismissed as naive the idea that a better grasp of the law would strengthen marriages.
“It’s not the marriage that produces the divorce. It’s ultimately the absence of love or the waning of love,” he said.
“Why is the state getting involved in this? It would be a total intrusion into private life. If the government imposes preparation or a sort of entrance exam for civil marriage, it will not reinforce marriage. I fear it could destabilise it further.”
French voters go to the polls in four months to elect a President and some see the timing of the move as a bid to attract family values voters to Mr Sarkozy's cause.
Mr Sarkozy, who has been divorced twice, dismissed reports last week that he might include same-sex marriage in his election manifesto.