Merry Christmas darling, I've got you a divorce voucher

By Ernest Bey

A London lawyer has become the first in the country to sell divorce gift vouchers as Christmas presents.

Vanessa Lloyd Platt, a senior partner at Lloyd Platt & Company who charges £325 an hour, claims to have been inundated with enquiries.

The vouchers offer couples half-hour or hour-long sessions with a lawyer.

They cost from £125 plus VAT. The firm says it has sold 54 in three weeks, with requests from husbands, wives and mistresses during the Christmas run-up. Other purchasers include those who want to suggest to friends or family members that they should get divorced.

Critics called the move "cynical" and insisted there were other options for a troubled marriage.

Matt Buttery, chief executive of the Family Matters Institute, said: "It's picking up on the fact that much divorce happens and a lot of relationships break down over Christmas because of family pressures. There are some great services out there to help couples. If things are tough then they should get some help."

Tory MP Edward Leigh said: "Marriage is a very precious thing to a lot of people and this just turns it into a commodity." Britain has one of the highest divorce rates in the world. In 2007 there were 26.6 divorces per 1,000 married men aged 25-29 and 26.9 divorces per 1,000 married women in the same age bracket.

In 68 per cent of cases in 2007, it was the wife who was granted the divorce. Ms Lloyd Platt, 54, who lives near Finchley, said: "We're not encouraging people to get a divorce - they're more likely to get divorced if they don't know what options they've got. This is something people really need. The fact that so many people are buying them shows lots of people are unhappy, especially at this time of year."

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