Weston-super-Mare – is it really one step away from being the divorce capital of the UK?
We may think of it as a sunny sea-side spot… or even a lovely place to retire to… but our very own Weston-super-Mare earned a dubious accolade late last month when it was listed as the 'unofficial divorce capital of the UK'.
According to figures published by the Ministry of Justice, only Birmingham (with a population of more than 10 times that of Weston), registered more divorce applications last year.
The official list of divorce "hot spots" was released as part of a Government drive to encourage couples to make use of new publicly-funded mediation services.
In total there were 2,437 applications for divorce petitions at Weston-super-Mare County Court in the 12 months to September 2012, compared with 2,799 at Birmingham Civil Justice Centre.
However, it has emerged that 92% of the petitions in Weston relate to clients of the website Divorce-Online, from across the country. Mark Keenan, managing director of Divorce-Online, said the company was advised to file its petitions in Weston by the MoJ as the court there had more capacity.
Head of Wards Solicitors' Divorce & Relationship Breakdown practice, Georgina Peacock, said: "Speaking as head of one of Weston's most established divorce practice we haven't noticed so much an increase in the number of divorce petitions filed, as more people choosing to approach a solicitor for advice about it. We were left somewhat scratching our heads over this recent press coverage. There's no denying that getting divorced is a stressful time and that you want someone compassionate representing your needs. Particularly when financial matters are being discussed, it's important that details are not overlooked in the midst of emotions and disagreements. What people seem to be finding now, more than ever, is that, if they want the best outcome, they have to go down the route of instructing a professional to handle matters, rather than attempting to manage it themselves. What this demonstrates is the value you get from being able to go to your local solicitor and local court."
The top ten courts for the number of divorce petitions filed in the last year were:
1. Birmingham Civil Justice Centre and Family Courts - 2,799
2. Weston-super-Mare County Court - 2,437
3. Leicester County Court - 1,831
4. Romford County Court - 1,783
5. Coventry Combined Court Centre - 1,776
6. Norwich Combined Court Centre - 1,775
7. Bristol County Court - 1,705
8. Croydon County Court - 1,672
9. Nottingham County Court - 1,611
10. ChelmsfordCounty and Family Proceedings Court - 1,567