CAIRO: Minister of Justice Mamdouh Marei announced last week that the family courts’ Office of Dispute Settlement (ODS) will offer services to mediate between married couples for free.
The ODS helps reconcile married couples and resolve marital disputes to avoid a divorce court battle.
Madiha El-Safty, professor of sociology at the American University in Cairo, hailed the minister’s decision.
“It [the decision] does facilitate matters, as some people can’t afford to pay the fees for reconciliation, making this service a great help considering [the increase] in the costs of living and the divorce rate in our society,” El-Safty told Daily News Egypt.
Any couple opting for divorce through the court is obliged by law to first consult the ODS.
Marei added that the presence of a lawyer is not necessary during the reconciliation process by the ODS.
Hossam Lotfy, law professor at Cairo University, criticized this point noting that “This could lead to the loss of one of the party’s rights.
“I suggest the court assign a lawyer free of charge from the Lawyers’ Syndicate to represent each party or assign a legal specialist to facilitate the process and guarantee the rights of the couple in dispute without violating the law,” he said.
Lotfy added that the ODS needs to improve the way it operates, in order for it to perform its role efficiently.
“The employees at the ODS need better training, they need to concentrate on the psychological aspect of those involved, and deal with it as something more than just reconciling two spouses who got into a fight, it’s usually more complicated than that,” Lotfy told Daily News Egypt.
The ODS gives the married couple 51 days to reconcile, this can be extended to 51 more days if the couple agrees.
El-Safty criticized the family court’s slow routine in resolving domestic disputes.
“I believe family courts could help more by upgrading their service and making more [swift decisions], as family courts are known to drag on for a long time before giving a verdict,” she said.
If the couple agrees to reconcile through the ODS, an official reconciliation report is issued and is implemented by the power of the law, without having to go to court.
The reconciliation procedures of the ODS are confidential and there are no legal repercussions in case the reconciliation attempt fails.