MPs began discussions on Wednesday on the reform of family law which involves eight new bills in total that will see among others, the marriage age raised from 16 to 18.

Justice Minister Stephie Dracou, who presented the first four bills, said the interests of the child were at the heart of the reforms but also more equality between parents and the equal distribution of responsibilities, plus the speedy adjudication of cases.

Among the most important issues tackled by the bills is the hiking of the marriage age from 16 to 18, the removal of some of the say the church has in divorce and the ability of minors age between 16 and 18 to have a say in whether they need psychological support.

Grounds for divorce will also be added to, to include some of the grounds included in religious charters. All grounds for divorce will be brought under one umbrella piece of legislation and consensual divorce will be possible if a marriage is six months or longer.

One of the bills will also change the provision of the law that requires three judges to sit in divorce courts. It is recommended that all cases be heard by a single judge, and that the same judge handle as much as possible of the cases they have been covering to ensure more continuity.

The reason the marriage age is being raised from 16 to 18 is because the legal age of consent is 17 so anyone who marries now at 16 would be breaking the law.

The fourth bill concerns the law on attempted reconciliation and spiritual resolution of marriage and the obligation before registering a divorce to notify the competent bishop and to attempt reconciliation in order to save the marriage.

However, Dracou said that over the years this procedure has become completely formal. The minister expressed the intention of the government to either abolish the law completely or to modify it so that the procedure is followed according to the choice of the spouses themselves.

At the same time, she said if the reason for divorce is violence, there will be no right to send a notification letter to the church.

In statements after the committee meeting, the minister said there would be private consultations with the political parties on the recommendations laid out in the bills.

The Commissioner for the Protection of Children’s Rights, Despo Michaelidou, who was at the session said many of her recommendations had been heeded, such as the deletion of provisions for underage marriages.

Committee chairman. Disy’s Nicos Tornaritis said deputies would have 15 days to study the bills and continue with the article-by-article discussion.