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2 Sep, 2009 10:59

Divorce just a mouse click away

Divorce just a mouse click away

Separations at the click of a mouse in Brazil, TV ads promoting online divorce companies in the UK, and a surge in MP break ups following the expenses scandal… Are divorces becoming commercialized and crassly accepted?

Cracking under the public humiliation of this summer's expenses row, a surge in the number of MPs at Westminster divorcing is expected. According to the Mail on Sunday, marriages within the Commons are under “unprecedented strain” in the wake of the scandal that blighted the reputation of British politicians. A source from the Conservative party's whips' office told the Mail on Sunday:

“Only last month, a senior member of David Cameron's frontbench was overheard asking a colleague, ‘Are you getting divorced? Everybody's getting divorced!’”

Divorce is becoming not only more socially accepted but also increasingly commercialized. Whilst MPs make light and joke about what is a deeply serious and sorrowful affair, “quick”, “convenient” and “cheaper” methods of divorce are becoming available, and not only in the UK.

Brazilians will no longer have to go through the anguish and torment of meeting with an ex and arduously trawl through paperwork, as a law that enables couples to end their marriages online was recently announced and is pending approval by the senate. Divorces are the latest legal procedure made possible on the Internet in Brazil, as lawyers recognize the sense in saving the money invested in what usually can be considered grueling processes.

The bonuses of Internet divorces are fairly obvious with the saving of money and time being the biggest advantages. The possibility of not having to confront an estranged spouse is another major attraction of divorcing online. Although separating by a “click of a mouse” has not been without criticism, and for some, its “easiness” will result in more divorces.

31-year-old Tracey from Manchester, whose parents divorced when she was ten, believes services such as online divorces will ultimately result in a rise in marriages ending in divorce.

“I know the heartache parents divorcing causes to children and by making them available on the Internet where no physical contact is necessary will definitely lead to a divorce which otherwise may have been resolved”, Tracey said.

Promoting divorces to be more attainable is not an entirely recent phenomenon. Two years ago the first advertisement offering “bargain divorces” was broadcast on television in Britain. The online divorce company was advertising divorces for just £65 and by “cutting out the middle man”, couples could save themselves a significant amount of money. Condemned by some for making divorces “cushier” and allowing unscrupulous businesses to profit at the expense of people's misfortunes, the Internet divorce company's founder Mark Keenan insisted that his firm was not out to gain at the expense of others and they were not trying to attract impulse divorces. Keenan said in a report in The Guardian:

“We do a good professional job for people and provide an alternative to high street solicitors. The number of marriage breakdowns is sad, but these are already happening. We just help people keep more of their money to benefit themselves and their children.”

Despite the growing trend to end marriages online, according to statistics.gov.uk, divorces in Britain have been steadily declining for the past five years and that annual figures show that divorce is at its lowest rate for 26 years. The fall is mainly due to a decrease in the number of couples getting married in the UK, as Penny Mansfield, director of a relationship counseling charity told BBC news, “those who don't marry can't divorce.”

The recession has also been suggested to be contributing to the decline in divorce rates in Britain. Whilst financial woes have exacerbated problems in relationships, it is because of the sheer cost of a divorce that many couples are choosing to “soldier on” or search for a cheaper method, namely an “Internet divorce”. A study was recently carried out by chartered accountants Grant Thornton, which involved the 70 top legal firms in the UK. The lawyers all agreed that whilst a drop in the value of investments such as house prices is intensifying financial strain within couples, it is also leading to a decreased amount of married couples filing for a divorce. According to The Independent, the average family wealth fought over in divorce cases dropped from £2.85 million in 2007 to £1.5 million in 2009.

Hefty court and solicitor fees can put the cost of a divorce well over £1000 in the UK, and with the prospect of avoiding coming face-to-face with a bitter ex, it is of little surprise a niche has been found providing cheaper and more convenient means to terminate a rocky marriage. And with senior Tory MPs unashamedly asking colleagues whether they are getting a divorce, separations with just a few keystrokes look set to soar.

Gabrielle Pickard for RT

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