Couples with children wanting to divorce will only be allowed to legally do so after receiving counseling on the impact of the separation on their offspring and their respective parental roles in childcare, officials of the Supreme Court said Monday.
The counseling on childcare will become mandatory for couples who are seeking an uncontested divorce starting next month.
"So far, the counseling has not been obligatory and each court has recommended it or not according to each situation," a court official said.
"The new guideline will help the couples pay more attention to their children, especially minors, as well as the need to continue playing a parental role after divorce," he said.
Counselors will discuss the likely consequences of the divorce on their children, what the parents should consider for the children's psychological stability, and what their respective roles should be after splitting up.
The counselors will also help couples decide on custody, how much to pay for child support and how to arrange visits with the children for the non-custodial parent.
The procedure will be mandatory when couples with minor children agree to an uncontested divorce. In other cases, the courts can also recommend counseling at the judges' discretion.
"Couples receiving counseling will get written confirmation, and they can enter a cooling-off period, an obligatory process before divorce, only when they submit the confirmation to the courts," the official said.
The cooling-off period was designed to give couples a chance to reconsider hasty divorce arising from fits of anger. It is usually three months if the couple have minor children and one month when they don't, and can be reduced for specific reasons such as domestic violence.
Each district court will designate counselors, comprised of experts in psychology and social welfare, who will be recommended by the local governments, counseling agencies and doctors' groups in the region.
The official said there have been growing calls to make the counseling obligatory. According to a report released by the Korean Women's Development Institute in January, only 8.3 percent of couples with minor children got such counseling.
Some 32 percent of those not receiving the counseling said they didn't because the process didn't seem helpful, while 22.8 percent said they didn't know about the measure and 20.8 percent that they didn't have time.