Unhappy couples can now get an overnight divorce as part of a package holiday to the Caribbean.

A new service will fly one, or both, partners out to the Dominican Republic, where a judge can complete the process in a ten-minute hearing. They can then jet back home or enjoy some of the island's stunning beaches - as single men and women.

The NZ$8500 service, which includes air fares, accommodation and paperwork, greatly accelerates a divorce process, which can take months, or even years. Clients can jet in one day, see the judge the following morning, then fly home that afternoon.

The internet company launching the service tomorrow - on the eve of Valentine's Day - says the decrees obtained in the Dominican Republic would be recognised elsewhere in the world.


However, independent legal experts warned that they might not bear up to scrutiny if any aspect of the split was later contested.

In New Zealand, a couple must have lived apart for two years, according to the Department of Justice. This is the only proof that a relationship has broken down "irreconcilably." From there, the formal process takes months.

However, the new service being offered by British website QuickdivorceUK.com completes all the paperwork in a week, provided all potential issues of conflict, from the custody of any children to dividing up property, have been agreed in writing.

The company translates all necessary documents such as marriage certificates into Spanish, then at least one of the couple must travel to the Dominican Republic capital San Domingo.

If one spouse does not attend, they have to sign a power of attorney, witnessed by a British court official, stating that they consent to the split and are happy to be represented abroad by their soon-to-be ex.

Aimee Edwards, who set up the site with her husband Benjamin, said that Dominican Republic law allows visitors to be treated as domiciled there even if their stay is fleeting. She said there was strong demand for such a service and that she already had five couples waiting to use it.

There is already a trade in Dominican Republic divorces for American couples. In 1998 singer Mariah Carey ended her five-year marriage to record company chief Tommy Mottola there, and Mia Farrow and Andre Previn's divorce papers were also filed there.
However, critics have complained that such quickie divorces are undermining the institution of marriage.

Norman Wells, director of the Family Education Trust, said: "Any system that allows for swift, no-fault divorces inevitably devalues marriage. Marriage involves a lifelong commitment and is therefore not something to be entered into lightly or ended in haste.

"Instead of providing struggling couples with a quick escape route, we should be encouraging them to talk through their difficulties with a view to resolving their differences and restoring their marriage."

But Edwards said: "When a couple decide to divorce they've already made up their minds about their marriage, and it won't make any difference to their feelings whether it takes days or months to finalise it.

"We're simply offering a service for which we know there is demand. Why should it take so long for couples to divorce even when they both agree to it?"