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

"The aim is to make life easier for Colombians," Manuel Cuello, superintendent of the National Registrar, said, adding that "getting divorced should not be such a bureaucratic ordeal".
 
More than one million couples are waiting to have their cases settled.

Backlog of cases

The proposal was a response to the mounting backlog of divorce cases that are tying up the courts, said Cuello.

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.

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 issue a certificate authorising the divorce or send the case to the courts.

Church objection

Catholic Church officials have objected to the law, saying the measure will encourage couples to resort to divorce rather than work out their differences.

"We will end up with a more unstable society and unstable children. Marriage vows should not be taken lightly"

Monsignor Juan Vicente Cordoba, auxiliary bishop of Bucaramanga

"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 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.